Zika virus awareness: Stay current on the facts

New information is appearing weekly in the media on the mosquito-borne virus called Zika. Don’t panic. Take a few minutes to update yourself on the facts.


What is Zika virus disease (Zika)?

Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms are usually mild, lasting for several days to a week. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. In addition, a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, can be triggered by Zika in a small proportion of infections. And recently, a potential link between Zika and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a condition which can result in an MS-like syndrome for up to six months, has also been described.

How is Zika transmitted?

So far, the Zika virus has been spread primarily by the Aedes aegypti species mosquito, but the virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child during pregnancy or to her newborn around the time of birth, through blood transfusions or through sexual contact with an infected man. In addition, a recent study suggests Zika may also be spread by oral sex.

Keep in mind:

  • People at risk of getting the Zika virus disease are those who live in or travel to an area where Zika virus is found. Specific areas where Zika is spreading are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time.
  • For updates on geographic information and reported cases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web pages for Areas with Zika (link opens in new window) and Zika virus disease in the United States (link opens in new window).
  • Most people infected with Zika will have no symptoms. When symptoms present, they are usually mild and will last several days to one week. People infected usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
  • Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly (link opens in new window), as well as other severe fetal brain defects.
  • The CDC is investigating the link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis. GBS is very likely triggered by Zika in a small proportion of infections, much as it is after a variety of other infections.

What can you do now?


This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed professional.

You should consult with an applicable licensed professional to determine what is right for you.

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