What is Zika virus infection?
Zika virus infection almost never makes children or adults very sick. But Zika virus is very dangerous to an unborn baby (fetus).
Zika can be spread by mosquitoes, sex, or blood transfusion
A pregnant woman with Zika infection can pass it to her baby
Most people have no symptoms or get only mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes
Babies born to mothers infected with Zika virus may have birth defects of their brain, including an abnormally small head ( microcephaly Microcephaly "Micro-" means small, and "-cephaly" refers to the head, so microcephaly is a small head. A baby with microcephaly usually has a small brain, and the brain may not have formed properly Microcephaly... read more )
There's no treatment for Zika virus infection, but rest and acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain can help
How do people get Zika virus infection?
The Zika virus is spread mainly by:
Zika virus also can be spread by:
A pregnant woman to her baby before birth
If you're infected with Zika virus, you can spread it to your partner during sex:
Even if you don't have symptoms
Before symptoms start
While having symptoms
Weeks or even months after your symptoms have gone away—Zika virus can stay in a man's semen for up to 6 months
The mosquitoes that spread Zika virus live in warmer climates. So most Zika infections occur in South America and the Caribbean. However, people who visit those areas from other parts of the world can return home with a Zika infection.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?
You may have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days and include:
Bumpy red rash
Pain in your joints and muscles
Red, irritated eyes
How does Zika affect babies?
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects of the baby's brain, including an abnormally small head ( microcephaly Microcephaly "Micro-" means small, and "-cephaly" refers to the head, so microcephaly is a small head. A baby with microcephaly usually has a small brain, and the brain may not have formed properly Microcephaly... read more ). Babies with microcephaly can have problems such as:
Delays in development (for example, they may sit, stand, and walk later than usual)
Decreased mental ability
Problems with movement and balance
Problems eating or swallowing
Problems hearing or seeing
How do doctors tell if I have Zika virus infection?
Doctors diagnose Zika based on:
How do doctors treat Zika virus infection?
Right now, there's no medicine to cure Zika virus infection.
Doctors will have you:
Drink fluids to make sure there's enough water in your body
Take acetaminophen to ease pain and fever
Don't take aspirin or ibuprofen unless you've seen a doctor and know for sure that you have Zika virus infection. If you have dengue fever Dengue Fever Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes. A more serious version of the disease, called dengue hemorrhagic fever, causes bleeding and can be deadly. Dengue is most common in the tropics... read more , which can have similar symptoms to Zika, taking aspirin or ibuprofen can be dangerous and cause bleeding.
If you're pregnant, doctors may:
Do ultrasonography every 3 or 4 weeks to check the development of your baby
How can I prevent Zika virus infection?
The best ways to prevent Zika virus infection are to:
Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes
Avoid unprotected sex with a partner who has or may have the infection
To avoid mosquito bites:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Stay in places that have air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out, or use a mosquito bed net
Use insect repellents containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) on uncovered skin—but don't use insect repellents on babies under 2 months old
Treat clothing and gear with permethrin insecticide (don't put it directly on your skin)
Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus is common (see current Zika Travel Information).
If you're pregnant and your sex partner lives in or travels to a place where Zika virus infection is common, you should do one of the following during the pregnancy:
Don't have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral)
Always use barrier birth control Barrier Contraceptives A contraceptive is something used for preventing pregnancy (birth control). Barrier contraceptives are a type of birth control that works by keeping sperm from getting to an egg. Barrier contraceptives... read more (such as a condom or dental dams) during sex
If your female sex partner has been diagnosed with Zika or has symptoms of Zika, you should do one of the following:
Not have sex for at least 8 weeks
Use condoms or dental dams during sex
If your male sex partner has been diagnosed with Zika or has symptoms of Zika, you should do one of the following:
Not have sex for at least 6 months
Use condoms during sex
Zika virus stays in a man's semen longer than in other body fluids.