Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
While sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, it is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots, and vases. They are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth. It is possible that Zika virus could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy.
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika). The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare.
DCHHS advises individuals with symptoms to see a healthcare provider if they visited an area where Zika virus is present or had sexual contact with a person who traveled to an area where Zika virus is present.
There is no specific medication available to treat Zika virus and there is not a vaccine. Treat the symptoms:
Get plenty of rest.
Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
Take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain.
Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage. If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
If you have Zika virus, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
The best ways to avoid Zika virus are to avoid mosquito bites and sexual contact with a person who has Zika virus. DCHHS recommends everyone use the 4Ds to reduce the chance of being bitten by a mosquito.
DEET All Day, Every Day: Whenever you’re outside, use insect repellents that contain DEET or other EPA approved repellents and follow instructions.
DRESS: Wear long, loose, and light-colored clothing outside.
DRAIN: Remove all standing water in and around your home.
DUSK & DAWN: Limit outdoor activities during dusk and dawn hours when mosquitoes are most active.
While all 4Ds are important, draining or treating standing water is crucial to stop the breeding of mosquitoes. Standing water can be treated with EPA-approved larvicides that are available for retail purchase. Larvicides are products used to kill immature mosquitoes before they become adults. Larvicides are applied directly to water sources that hold mosquito eggs, larvae, or pupae. When used well, larvicides can help reduce the overall mosquito burden by limiting the number of mosquitoes that are produced, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Travelers can protect themselves further by doing the following:
Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows or doors.
Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that is not well-screened.
Sexual partners can protect each other by abstaining from sex or by using condoms consistently and correctly during sex.
Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant can protect themselves further by taking the following precautions:
Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Pregnant women should discuss their male partner’s potential exposures to mosquitoes and history of Zika-like illness.
Women trying to become pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
To see countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/.
DCHHS Zika Virus Fact Sheet in Various Languages
For Providers: Zika Virus Specimen Submissions
For Providers: Zika Pregnancy Registry Forms