1. Zika virus is spread through a mosquito bite—and sex.
Only the Aedes genus of mosquitos has been found to carry Zika, along with other serious infectious diseases, including yellow fever and dengue. These mosquitoes become infected with Zika when they bite an infected person, and spread the virus by biting others. Fortunately, the Aedes mosquito is not common in most parts of the U.S. aside from Florida, along the Gulf Coast and in Hawaii.
Zika can also be passed along through sex, no matter if or when the infected partner shows symptoms, according to the CDC. Only people with sex partners who live in or traveled to an area with Zika are presently at risk for getting sexually transmitted Zika.
2. Zika infections usually cause mild illnesses.
Only 1 of 5 people infected with the virus will develop any symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, according to the CDC. Symptoms are typically mild and temporary, beginning 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and lasting several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
3. Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
Zika cases have been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which infants are born with unusually small heads and damaged brains. Pregnant women are advised against traveling to infected areas.
4. Zika may be linked to other serious illnesses.
Zika has been potential link to some cases of Guillain-Barre, a rare syndrome in which the immune system attacks the nerves, in at least 13 countries.Other severe fetal brain defects have caused eye problems, hearing loss and impaired growth in babies born from infected mothers. Scientists are studying the full range of health problems that Zika virus infection may cause during pregnancy.
5. You can protect yourself against Zika virus.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.
According to the CDC, you can protect yourself from Zika by preventing mosquito bites:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Always use as directed.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
- Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children 2 months or older. Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin. An adult should spray insect repellent onto her/his hands and then apply to a child’s face. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
- When traveling to an infected area, use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
Visit the CDC Travelers’ Health site and Zika hub for the most updated information.