About Zika

News & Research

By UM News

What you should know about the Zika virus and its effects.

CORAL GABLES, Fla.– With Zika spreading rapidly across the Americas for over a year, there is still much to be learned about this insect-borne disease and its effects on humans. But scientists and researchers do have some knowledge about the virus and its public health implications.

Zika symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and can include muscle pain and headaches. The symptoms usually last for several days and typically are not enough to prompt an emergency room visit. People very rarely die of Zika. Most people (4 out of 5) who have been infected with Zika will show mild to no symptoms of the virus. There is currently no medicine or vaccine for Zika but you can take steps to alleviate the symptoms, such as getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and taking medicine such as acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain. If you think you have been infected with Zika, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Though spread mostly by the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are aggressive daytime biters but can bite around the clock, Zika can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus, through sex, or, very rarely but still likely, through blood transfusions.

The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya. They typically lay eggs in and near standing water, such as in buckets, bowls, flower pots and vases. These mosquitoes prefer to bite people and they become infected when they feed on the blood of a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes then go on to spread the virus by biting other people.

A pregnant woman infected with Zika can pass the virus to her fetus during the pregnancy or at the time of birth. To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika through breastfeeding. Zika is a cause of microcephaly—babies born with smaller heads and incomplete brain development—and can cause other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika can also be transmitted via sex, even if the infected person does not have any symptoms at the time. Studies are currently underway to find out how long Zika stays in semen and vaginal fluids of people with the virus.

To date there have been no confirmed cases of transmission of Zika through blood transfusions in the United States, but there have been several reports of such cases in Brazil.

Though no vaccine for Zika currently exists, the virus can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and using protection while having sex.

Key points:
  1. Zika primarily spreads through infected mosquitoes. You can also get Zika through sex.
  2. The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites, by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and removing standing water around your home.
  3. Zika is linked to birth defects.
  4. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika.
  5. Travelers that become infected with Zika overseas or domestically can spread the virus at home through mosquito bites. 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.

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


Photo credit: Felipe Dana/Associated Press

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