Zika Virus: Signs and Symptoms
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that has recently started circulating in South and Central America. Most people who are infected with Zika virus have no symptoms or, if they do have symptoms, they are very mild and can include the following:
- Red eyes
- Muscle pains or joint pains
People usually do not get sick enough to be hospitalized and they very rarely die. A small number of people who are infected with Zika virus may later develop nerve weakness or paralysis called Guillane Barre Syndrome. Again, most people with Guillane Barre recover.
Zika Virus and Pregnancy
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should take precautions because there can be serious consequences to babies born to a woman infected during pregnancy. There has been an association between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect in which the size of a baby’s head and brain is smaller than expected for age and sex, as well as other defects that can have long term associated issues, including development delays such as:
- Delayed speech and motor milestones (sitting, standing, walking)
- Problems with movement and balance
- Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
- Hearing loss
- Vision problems
For more information about Zika virus and pregnancy, watch this video or download this fact sheet.
Zika Virus Transmission
People can be infected with the Zika virus directly by mosquito bite. Women can also be infected with the Zika virus via sexual transmission from her infected male partner. If you or your partner have traveled to an area that is affected by Zika, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you abstain from sexual intercourse or use a condom for the remainder of the pregnancy. Only people whose male sexual partners have traveled to or live in an area with active Zika transmission need to be concerned about potential sexual transmission of Zika virus. An updated list of the countries that have been affected by Zika virus can be found at www.cdc.gov/zika.
If you do not know your partner’s travel history, abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms every time you have sex for the duration of the pregnancy. Once the virus has cleared the blood (typically after about a week), prior Zika virus is not thought to affect future pregnancies.
Zika Virus Prevention
Avoiding mosquito bites is key to preventing the virus, particularly if traveling to a country that has been affect by Zika.
- Use an insect repellant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats to cover exposed skin
- Maximize time spent indoors in air-conditioned or screened rooms
If you are pregnant your partner has recently traveled to a country affected by Zika, abstain from sex or use condoms during sexual intercourse for the remainder of the pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and think you might have the Zika virus, talk to your provider. We here at Children’s are prepared to help you through our Congenital Zika Program, and we can work directly with your provider. For more information, call 202-476-7409.