Zika virus disease (Zika) is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
Zika and Birth Defects
A pregnant woman can contract Zika through the bite of an infected mosquito and also through sexual intercourse with an infected person. A pregnant woman is able to pass the virus to her fetus during pregnancy or at delivery. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly. In addition to microcephaly, fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth may experience eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.
The Future of Zika
There’s still more research being done to better understand the extent of the impact Zika virus has on mothers and their children. Based on the available evidence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) think that Zika virus infection in a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood. From what the CDC knows about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika virus, he or she is likely to be protected from a future Zika infection.
Until the CDC knows more, it is recommended that special precautions are made for pregnant women. Women who are pregnant should not travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow precautions during your trip.
Take steps to prevent mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants while you’re outdoors. Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents as directed. Remove or stay away from mosquito breeding sites like containers with standing water.
Prevent yourself from getting Zika through sex by using a condom every time you have sex with a partner who has lived in or traveled to an area with Zika virus. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly from start to finish, every time during sex. Since Zika through sexual transmission is possible, both men and women should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during their trip.
If you suspect you have Zika or you have traveled to an area with Zika, it’s important that you talk to your doctor even if you don’t feel sick. Your baby’s health is at risk, and it’s best to know whether or not you have Zika so you can take proper care.
Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov