Zika key messages

December 2017

General Practitioners

Country of origin: USA

With the recent outbreaks in the Americas, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. CDC can't predict how much Zika virus will spread in the continental United States. To date, Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. However, lab tests have confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States from areas with Zika.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). A man with Zika virus can pass it during sex to his male or female partners. Some non-travelers in the United States have become infected with Zika through sex with someone who has traveled to an area with Zika. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus. However, recent outbreaks in the continental United States of chikungunya and dengue, which are spread by the same type of mosquito, have been relatively small and in limited areas.

Not having sex can eliminate the chance of getting Zika from sex. Men who live in or travel to areas with Zika can avoid transmitting Zika to their partners by using condoms every time they have sex, or by not having sex. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly (warning: this link contains sexually graphic images) from start to finish, every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.

Birth Defects

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly, a severe birth defect that is a sign of a problem with brain development, and other severe fetal brain defects.

In addition to 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. Although Zika virus has been linked with these other problems in infants, there is more to learn. Scientists continue to study the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is 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.

The Brazil Ministry of Health has reported an increased number of people who have been infected with Zika virus who also have GBS.
GBS is very likely triggered by Zika in a small proportion of infections, much as it is after a variety of other infections.
CDC is investigating the link between Zika and GBS.
Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are

Fever
Rash
Joint pain
Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The sickness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.

Treatment

There is no medicine for Zika. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms.

The following steps can reduce the symptoms of Zika:

Get plenty of rest.
Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
Take medicine, such as acetaminophen, to reduce fever and pain.
Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding.
If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
To prevent others from getting sick, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness.

Prevention

There is no vaccine for Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions.
Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

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