What is the Zika virus?

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus

From the desk of Katie Faragher, CPNP

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites.  Twenty percent of people infected with the virus become ill.  The most common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.  Less common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.  The time of exposure to the virus to symptoms is unknown, but thought to be a few days to a week.  Symptoms typically last several days to a week.  Treatment is supportive care and infected people are not contagious.

There is no vaccination or prophylactic medication to prevent Zika virus infection.

How does this affect pregnant women?

Due to increased incidence of a birth defect called microcephaly (unusually small heads and abnormal brain development) in Brazil, health authorities are investigating a possible association between Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in newborns. 

The CDC has issues a travel alert for pregnant women traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission is spreading.  This now includes 22 destinations mainly within Latin America and the Caribbean. 

If a pregnant woman does travel to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should take strict precautions to prevent mosquito bites. 

Prevention methods recommended by the CDC include:

-Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants

-Using U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellants

-Using permethrin-treated clothing and gear

-Staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms

Mosquitos that spread Zika virus bite indoors and outdoors, especially during the daytime.  It is important to exercise the above precautions throughout the entire day to prevent mosquito bites. 

For further information on Zika virus, see links posted below.