What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

We wanted to give resources and updates on the current status of the Zika virus. For complete up-to-date information about the virus, you can also visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.

The Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly and other severe brain defects. From the CDC, “Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetuses to have a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.” The biggest concern with the Zika virus at this time is its effects on an unborn fetus. If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, or have a sexual partner that is pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, the CDC recommends you avoid unnecessary travel to places with reports of the Zika virus.

How do you get infected with the Zika virus?

Basics of Zika Virus

The Zika virus primarily spreads via mosquitos, which is why travel to areas with high populations of mosquitos can significantly increase the risk of infection. Scientists and medical physicians have also discovered that the virus can be spread during sex if one partner has Zika, “from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth, through blood transfusion (likely but not confirmed).” Symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes and muscle pain. The symptoms are mild and last anywhere from a couple of days to a week. They are similar to other diseases passed by mosquitos.

How to protect yourself from Zika?

Zika Areas of Risk

Currently, there is no vaccine or medical cure for this virus. The CDC recommends that people traveling or living in areas with confirmed cases of Zika virus:

(1) Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

(2) Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

(3) Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.

(4) Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

(5) Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

(6) Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.

(7) Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.

(8) Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.

(9) Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air-conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

(10) Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.