Zika Virus

Young women's version of this guide
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mosquitoYou have probably heard about the Zika virus on the news. Some people may become upset when hearing about a serious health concern. Scientists are working hard to understand this health problem however there are still many questions. Although there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika at this time, there are things you can do to lower your risk of getting the virus.

What is Zika?

The name “Zika” is the name of the forest in Uganda where the mosquito carrying the virus was first found many years ago. Zika virus disease is usually caused by the bite of certain infected mosquitos called “Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.” The Zika virus is usually mild and people rarely die of it. Only about 1 in 5 people who are infected with the Zika virus will actually get sick; however, infants born to mothers who are infected are at risk of having a serious birth defect called “microcephaly” or small head.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

Common symptoms of Zika virus disease may include: fever, pain in the joints, rash and redness of the eyes. These symptoms usually last for a few days to one week. Because the illness is usually mild, most people may not know they have been infected.

What areas are affected by the Zika virus?

There are certain areas in South and Central America and the Caribbean, including the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands where there have been many new cases of the Zika virus transmitted by infected Aedes mosquitos. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that places where the Zika virus is found will likely change, as it spreads to new areas. You can see an up-to-date map of affected areas on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

If you, your family or friends are planning to travel in the near future, you should visit the CDC Traveler’s Health site: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information for up to date travel information.

Pregnant women should talk to their health care provider before planning a trip to an area affected by the Zika virus.The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that:

  • Women who are sexually active and not using a reliable method of birth control as well as women who are trying to become pregnant, should also talk to their health care provider before traveling to areas known to be infected by the Zika virus.
  • Anyone traveling to areas affected by the Zika virus should use methods to avoid mosquito bites.

What can I do to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos that could be infected with the Zika virus?

Certain (infected) mosquitos such as the Aedes species can cause serious health problems. The best way to avoid getting sick is to not get bitten by an infected mosquito. Other ways to lower your risk of mosquito borne illness in affected areas include:

  1. Avoid wearing clothing that exposes your skin (such as shorts and sleeveless or short sleeve shirts). Instead wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  2. Stay indoors or where there are screens on windows and doors (that are not torn).
  3. Use insect repellant that has been approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  4. Use clothing that has been treated with permethrin. Never apply permethrin directly to the skin.
  5. Sunscreen may be applied first then insect repellant.
We now know that the Zika virus can be spread by sexual contact. Ask your sexual partner(s) if they have traveled to an area affected by the Zika virus. Talk to your health care provider to find out if you may be at risk and avoid having sex or use condoms every time you are sexually active.

For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/zika