GET THE FACTS ON THE ZIKA VIRUS
The Zika virus has been all over the news lately. A recent outbreak in Brazil has raised questions and prompted concerns among scientists and the general public. There is still a lot to learn about this virus and its health effects. But researchers do know some crucial information, and they are learning more each day. Here are some frequently asked questions—along with answers.
How does Zika spread?
The virus is spread mainly by a certain species of mosquito. When a mosquito that is carrying the virus bites someone, that person may contract the virus. The virus can also spread through sexual contact. A man who has the virus may infect a sexual partner.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with Zika display no symptoms. And for those who do, symptoms tend to be mild. They may include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Headache, and
- Pink eye, or conjunctivitis
Is there a risk of any serious complications?
Zika appears to be linked to 2 more serious problems. Women who are pregnant and get infected may pass the virus to their baby. The virus may affect the growth of the baby’s brain. As a result, the baby’s head may be much smaller than normal. This is a birth defect known as microcephaly.
Zika may also be linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is a condition where a person’s immune system attacks the body’s own nerve cells. It can lead to muscle weakness and even paralysis. In most cases, these symptoms are temporary.
Is there a vaccine to prevent Zika?
At the moment, there is no vaccine for the Zika virus. But researchers are working to develop a vaccine as soon as possible.
How can I reduce my risk?
The best way to reduce your risk of Zika is to reduce your exposure to mosquitos and prevent mosquito bites. You can do that in three main ways:
- Avoid traveling to areas affected by the virus. Right now, the Zika outbreak is mainly centered in countries in the Americas. South America and Central America, mostly, but also Mexico. There are also outbreaks in certain islands in the Pacific and in Cape Verde in Africa. If you can, avoid travel to the countries that are most affected. For an up-to-date list of these areas, visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/zika.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. If you are traveling to or you live in an area affected by the Zika virus, take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts. Use an insect repellant containing DEET. Stay indoors in air conditioning, if possible. If air conditioning is not available, make sure there are screens on any open windows and doors.
- Practice safe sex. It’s also important to be careful when it comes to sex if you live in or have traveled to an area where there is a Zika outbreak. Zika can be sexually transmitted by men. To avoid the risk of passing it to a partner, men should wear a condom. This is especially important for any man whose partner may be pregnant, given the risk that Zika can pose for pregnant women.
How is Zika diagnosed and treated?
If you think you may have Zika, talk with your doctor. Based on your symptoms and other factors, such as where you live and your travel history, your doctor may make the diagnosis. A blood test can confirm that you have the virus.
There is no medicine to treat the virus at this time. And most people will not even feel symptoms, or their symptoms will be very mild. You can rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use over-the-counter medicines to manage any pain or fever.
Note: Talk with your doctor right away if you think you may have the virus and you or your partner is pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Is there anything I can do to help prevent the spread of Zika?
Yes. The best thing you can do to help prevent the spread of Zika is to avoid getting Zika. As much as possible, avoid travel to areas with Zika outbreaks. And if you are in areas where the virus is active, take steps to prevent mosquito bites. If you do get Zika, continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and practice safe sex. That way you can help prevent the virus from spreading further.
To learn more and to get the most up-to-date information on the Zika virus, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika.