You’ve probably heard about Zika virus on the news and may be worried about it, especially with so many students and faculty traveling to potential Zika-risk areas during the spring and summer. The CDC Zika web site is the best source for accurate information about this illness. Many people infected with Zika will have no symptoms or mild symptoms that last several days to a week. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects and severe fetal brain defects.
Zika is primarily spread through infected mosquitos. You can also get Zika through sex. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus, and local transmission through infected mosquitoes has been documented in the U.S. Most cases in the U.S. are still associated with recent travel outside the country, however. Also, Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners.
Zika is linked to birth defects. A pregnant woman and her fetus are at most risk for complications of infection with Zika virus. Infection during pregnancy may result in the fetus being infected with Zika and developing serious birth defects such as microcephaly.
Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to an affected area, talk to your health care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent. You can also stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
Returning travelers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites and through sex. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in a person’s blood and can pass from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. Individuals who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika should take steps to protect themselves and their partners during sex by using condoms or not having sex for at least eight weeks after travel if no symptoms are present. If symptoms are present, they should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least six months after symptoms begin.
The CDC web site has more information about CDC travel advisories, preventing, diagnosing, and treating Zika, as well as on Zika and pregnancy. Please see your healthcare provider if you have recently traveled to an area with Zika virus transmission, and you have any symptoms of possible Zika infection or if you or your sex partner are or are considering becoming pregnant.