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Health

What is the Zika Virus?

Kristie Rivers, MD, FAAP, Board Certified Pediatrician
January 3, 2019 . 2 min read

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. This virus can also be passed to a newborn from a mother, and there are more recent reports of sexual transmission.

Zika virus is not new. Before 2015, this disease was found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands. However, in May 2015, the first case was confirmed in Brazil, and it has continued to spread rapidly to other countries since then.

Only one in five people who become infected with the Zika virus show any symptoms. Symptoms include fever, rash, eye redness/pain, muscle/joint pain, and headaches. These symptoms last from a few days to a week. Severe cases require hospitalization for IV fluids and close monitoring. Uncommonly, there has been an association with Guillaine-Barre syndrome, a neurologic condition that causes a reversible paralysis and loss of reflexes.

There is also an association between the Zika virus in a pregnant woman and microcephaly in her baby.

There is no effective treatment or cure for the disease.

There is no vaccine to protect against the Zika virus. The most important means of prevention is to avoid mosquito bites when visiting affected areas. Effective methods include wearing long sleeves and pants, staying in a hotel or home with air conditioning or window coverings, and using an Environmental Protection Agency-approved insect repellant.

If you are planning to travel to any of the affected areas, visit the CDC website for important Zika virus updates. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant in the near future, talk to your OB to decide if you need to change your travel plans to avoid the potential risks to your unborn child.

Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Clinical Evaluation and Disease.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Areas with Zika.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Prevention.

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