The Zika virus originates in the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and Africa. Only 1 in 5 people infected with the virus will show physical symptoms. People who are infected may experience fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The Department of Health keeps track of confirmed Zika cases within Washington State.
The virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. While this species is not currently in Washington, people who travel to and from areas where Zika is spreading can return with Zika illness. In addition to possible spread through infected blood or sexual contact, the Zika virus can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or birth.
Symptoms of Zika are generally mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and redness of the eyes. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Many people who get Zika have no symptoms at all. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika. The recommended treatment is to hydrate, rest, and take acetaminophen to alleviate symptoms.
Zika infection is a very serious concern for pregnant women because of its link with a birth defect in newborns called microcephaly, an abnormally small brain and skull, and other poor pregnancy outcomes. Zika is also linked to Guillan-Barré Syndrome, a problem marked by muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.
No vaccine or medication is currently available to treat the virus. The best way to prevent the virus is to protect against mosquito bites. Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika is spreading. Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant, who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow the steps provided during the trip:
- Apply EPA-registered insect repellants (homemade repellants may not offer protection)
- Avoid wearing perfume
- Use bed nets
- Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and closed toed shoes
- Wear Permethrin-treated clothing
The Zika Virus can be spread from a man to his sex partners. The correct use of condoms can prevent transmission. See the CDC's Zika Guide for Travelers for more information.