Zika is a virus. It is transmitted by mosquitoes. It was first discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. For many decades, it was thought to be a rare cause of infection. It was found only in small areas of Africa, the Yap Islands in the Pacific, and Easter Island. But in April 2015, it was found in Brazil. It has since spread quickly to many countries in South and Central Americas, and to the Caribbean and Mexico. Experts aren’t sure why.
A number of cases have also been found in the U.S. Most of these people got the virus while visiting other parts of the world where mosquitoes are spreading it. But very recently experts reported that the virus had been spread by mosquitoes in the U.S.
What Causes Zika?
The Zika virus is mostly passed on by the bite of the mosquito species Aedes. Pregnant women who have it can also give it to their unborn child. It may also be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion. But experts know so little about the virus that they are still learning all the ways it can be passed on.
What Are the Symptoms of Zika?
Most people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. For the 1 out of 5 people who do have symptoms, they are usually very mild. They last 5 to 7 days and then go away completely. They may include:
When to Call Your Healthcare Provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have been exposed to Zika and have any of these:
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed
Pain that gets worse
Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
How Is Zika Treated?
There is no medicine to cure the Zika virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms. Treatments include:
Fluids. Drinking lots of fluids will help you stay hydrated. Water and sports drinks are good choices. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
Medicine. Acetaminophen can help ease fever and pain.
Rest. You may feel better more quickly if you get plenty of rest.
How Does Zika Spread?
The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and sexual activity. To prevent infection during pregnancy, you need to protect yourself from mosquitoes and use protection during any sexual activity.
Possible Complications of Zika
The possible complications of Zika include:
Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults. This disease causes severe muscle weakness or paralysis.
Microcephaly in newborns. This birth defect causes a smaller than normal head and a less developed brain. It can lead to developmental problems, learning problems, and nervous system problems.
Travel and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you should not travel to an area with Zika. If your partner is pregnant or you are planning a pregnancy, talk with your healthcare provider before traveling. This is because Zika can cause severe birth defects in a baby when a pregnant woman has Zika.
If You Have Symptoms
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms of Zika. Symptoms may be mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle aches, and headache. You may need a blood or urine test to check for the virus.