What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus. This disease is passed to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. It causes fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes (conjunctivitis).
What causes Zika?
Zika is caused by Zika virus. This virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered in 1947.
How is Zika transmitted or spread?
Aedes mosquitoes spread the Zika virus from person to person.
- Aedes mosquitoes acquire the virus when they feed on infected people. They then spread the virus when they bite other people.
- The Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika are the same type that spread dengue fever and chikungunya virus. These mosquitoes usually feed during the day.
Zika can be passed from a mother to her baby.
- This can happen in the uterus or at the time of birth.
- Zika is not spread through breastfeeding.
The virus can be spread through sex.
- People with Zika can spread the disease to their sex partners before symptoms begin, while they have symptoms, and after symptoms end.
- The virus can also be passed during sex by people with Zika who never develop symptoms.
- No one knows how long Zika remains in sperm and vaginal fluids, or how long it can be spread during sex.
- The virus remains in semen longer than in other body fluids (blood, urine, vaginal fluids).
Zika can also be spread through:
- Blood transfusion
- Exposure in a laboratory
What are the symptoms of Zika?
In most cases, there are no symptoms. Only about 20% of people infected with Zika virus will have symptoms. Symptoms typically occur 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms are usually mild and last for a few days to a week before going away entirely.
The symptoms of Zika include:
- Joint pain
- Red eyes
- Muscle pain
How is Zika diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review your symptoms. He/she will also ask you about recent travel to an area where the virus is present.
If you have symptoms of Zika, the doctor will order blood and urine tests to look for Zika and other viruses like dengue and chikungunya.
How is Zika treated?
There is no specific treatment for Zika. There is no vaccine for Zika. Zika infection has to run its course just like flu.
The doctor may suggest the following steps to help relieve symptoms:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever.
- Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory until your doctor confirms that you do not have dengue. These medicines can cause bleeding in people with dengue.
What are the possible complications of Zika?
A Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a rare condition called microcephaly to the baby. It occurs when the brain does not grow as it should in the womb or after birth and causes babies to be born with a smaller-than-normal head.
Some people infected with Zika have later developed Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is a rare disorder, in which your immune system damages your peripheral nervous system. This causes neurologic symptoms of numbing and tingling sensation. This may eventually lead to paralysis. It is not clear why this may occur.
Can Zika be prevented?
There is no vaccine to protect against Zika. The best way to avoid getting the virus is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes.
If you get Zika, try to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, so you do not pass the virus to others.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.