Zika virus disease (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 after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Mosquito bites are the primary way that Zika virus is transmitted. The virus can be spread from mother to child. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have also been reported.
Not all mosquito types transmit the Zika virus. It is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (A. aegypti and possibly A. albopictus). These mosquitoes are mainly found in South Texas and along the Texas coast, but are also present in other parts of Texas, especially urban environments. They typically lay eggs on the walls of water-filled containers like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They live indoors and outdoors.
Even if you don’t know you’re infected, mosquitoes that bite you could transmit the virus to others.
Mosquitoes may pick up certain viruses, such as Zika, from biting a human who has a Zika infection. The mosquito takes a blood meal from the human and takes in the virus in the human’s blood. Then, after about 7-10 days, the mosquito may pass the Zika virus to other humans when biting them. The illness is usually mild with symptoms
lasting several days to a week.
Most Texas cases of Zika are related to travel
. People were bitten by an infected mosquito while traveling to areas where Zika is being spread and then diagnosed after returning home.
Although rare, the Zika virus may also be among the causes of Guillain-Barré syndrome
, a condition in which your immune system attacks part of your nervous system. The Zika virus also can be spread from mother to child, if the mother is infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy.
The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly
, a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected and can cause developmental delays.
Sexual contact, blood transfusion
The Zika virus can also be spread through sexual contact and blood transfusion. In known cases of sexual transmission, people spread the virus to their sex partners. CDC recommends that all pregnant women who have a sex partner who has traveled to or resides in an area with Zika use barrier methods every time they have sex or they should not have sex during the pregnancy. Although no cases of woman-to-woman Zika transmission have been reported, these recommendations now also apply to female sex partners of pregnant women. Research shows the virus might persist in semen longer than in blood; studies to determine the duration of persistence in semen are not yet completed.
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. Your best protection to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito breeding and protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Prevent Mosquito Breeding
- At least weekly empty or get rid of cans, buckets, old tires, pots, plant saucers and other containers that hold water.
- Keep gutters clear of debris and standing water.
- Remove standing water around structures and from flat roofs.
- Change water in pet dishes daily.
- Rinse and scrub vases and other indoor water containers weekly.
- Change water in wading pools and bird baths several times a week.
- Maintain backyard pools or hot tubs.
- Cover trash containers.
- Water lawns and gardens carefully so water does not stand for several days.
- Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.
- Treat front and back door areas of homes with residual insecticides if mosquitoes are abundant nearby.
- If mosquito problems persist, consider pesticide applications for vegetation around the home.
Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites
- Wear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, these insect repellents – including those that contain DEET – are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes out with air conditioning or intact window screens.
- Limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times.
People who are traveling to areas where Zika
is being spread should protect themselves from mosquito bites while abroad and for 21 days after returning home to help prevent themselves from becoming infected, and to keep from spreading the virus to mosquitoes in Texas in case the travelers
were exposed to Zika.
Protect Against Sexual Transmission
The CDC also recommends that:
- Pregnant women should discuss with their health care provider their own and their sex partner’s history of having been in areas with active Zika virus transmission and history of illness consistent with Zika virus disease.
- Pregnant women with sex partners (male or female) who live in or who have traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission should consistently and correctly use barriers against infection during sex or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Men and women who want to reduce the risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus should use barrier methods against infection consistently and correctly during sex or abstain from sex when one sex partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission.
Simple Steps to Prevent Zika During Pregnancy:
- Apply EPA-approved insect repellent. When used as directed, these insect repellents – including those that contain DEET – are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts.
- Use screens or close windows and doors. Remove standing water in and around your home.
- Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect.
- Avoid travel to regions where the Zika virus is active.
- Call your doctor if you have concerns.
- Protect yourself from sexual transmission.