Zika virus, often called Zika, most often is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. In rare cases, it also may be spread by an infected man to his sexual partners.
Zika is rarely deadly and people with the disease often don't get sick enough to go to the hospital.
The virus can be spread from pregnant women to their unborn children, though it is unknown how often or likely it is to happen. Researchers currently are studying the link between Zika and birth defects, including microcephaly. This is when a baby is born with a smaller head than normal, sometimes resulting in developmental delays and disability.
While there is no cure for Zika, there are steps that may be taken to prevent the infection.
People are encouraged to:
- Use mosquito repellent that has DEET, IR3535 or icaridin
- Use window screens or wearing clothing with more coverage to avoid being bitten
- Avoid areas that are known to have a lot of mosquitoes
- Remove mosquito breeding sites, such as areas of stale or dirty water
- Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active
- Avoid travel to affected areas
Some people with Zika do not show symptoms at all and do not know they are sick. The most common signs of Zika are:
- Skin rash
- Red, itchy eyes
- Muscle and joint pain
- A general feeling of being ill
Zika is mainly caused by infection spread by mosquito bites. Rare cases when the disease has been spread through sexual contact have been reported.
Patients living or traveling in areas affected by Zika are at an increased risk of getting the infection. These regions include areas of Cape Verde, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific Islands and South America.
The latest information on areas affected by the disease may be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
Diagnosis of Zika is confirmed through blood, urine or saliva tests.
These tests may be ordered if a patient is showing symptoms of Zika and recently has traveled to places the virus is common. All Zika virus testing must be coordinated and approved by Acute Communicable Disease Control (ACDC).
There is no cure for Zika.
Once infected, at-home care generally includes:
- Plenty of rest
- Plenty of water
- Over-the-counter medication for fever and pain
Patients with compromised immune systems or women who are pregnant should visit their healthcare provider if they suspect they have the infection.
If you have Zika, you should not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue fever has been ruled out.
Patients with Zika should work to prevent further mosquito bites during the first week of their illness. This will help stop the spread of Zika to other mosquitoes that could spread it to more humans.