Keeping informed about disease outbreaks and how to protect you and your family is important. Vectors such as mosquitoes can transmit disease. Zika virus is one of many vector-borne diseases and is primarily transmitted by aedes species mosquitoes. Zika virus is spreading and is being linked to birth defects in babies born to women who have contracted the disease while pregnant.
Currently, there is no specific treatment for the virus, nor is there a vaccine. Zika virus can be contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito, through blood transfusions, through sexual contact, and from mother to child during pregnancy.
While the incubation period of Zika virus is unknown, it is thought to be from a few days to a week long. Symptoms include fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headache. Symptoms tend to be mild and last from 2-7 days.
About 20% of people with Zika virus actually get ill from the virus. Severe disease that requires hospitalization is uncommon. Death due to the virus is rare. According to both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections (CDC).
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. On February 1, 2016, WHO declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories. Zika virus will likely continue to spread to new areas.
The Aedes mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus are also able to transmit dengue and Chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes are daytime biters, but can also bite at night. Aedes mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs near or in standing water, so reducing these sources can be a way to reduce mosquito populations near your home. NCAP encourages prevention methods as part of pest management to reduce the number of mosquitos and prevent pesticide use. This includes removing standing water from bird fountains, garden pots, tires, or anywhere that mosquitoes may breed. Public education on mosquito abatement and control are also important.
To protect yourself from mosquito bites, wear light colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible, use least toxic insect repellents (many contain botanical oils as the active ingredients), use screening on doors and windows, and if sleeping outside, use mosquito netting.
Occurrence of Zika virus in the United States
- To date, no locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in USA, but there have been travel-associated cases (CDC, WHO)
- Eight countries have now reported evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus, in the absence of mosquito-borne transmission including Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal and the United States of America (WHO).
- With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase.
- 80% of cases will not be diagnosed.
- These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States (CDC).
For more information on the Zika virus, please see the CDC website.
Additional information and Resources:
Zika Health-Related Information from the World Health Organization and the Mayo Clinic:
For Travelers concerned about Zika: