What is Zika virus? Zika virus (pronunciation: zee-kah) is a viral disease that is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. Prior to 2015, outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Pacific Ocean. In May 2015, Zika virus transmission was confirmed in Brazil and outbreaks are currently occurring in many countries. Zika virus is not currently transmitted by mosquito in the United States, but travelers returning from areas where the virus is being spread may become sick after returning home to the US. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. A list of countries where Zika virus is currently being spread can be found at the CDC website.

How is Zika virus spread? Zika virus is most often spread to people by Aedes spp mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue virus are included in this species. The mosquito becomes infected with Zika virus when it bites a person who has Zika. Early in the infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood of an infected person and is passed to another mosquito when the mosquito takes a blood meal. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people. Zika virus is transmitted rarely from mother to newborn around the time of birth and a link between Zika virus infection and birth defects is currently being investigated. In theory, the virus could be spread through a blood transfusion, although there are no known reports of this to date.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus? Approximately 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will develop some symptoms. Symptoms usually begin with 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild in healthy adults and may last from several days to a week. People at risk for more severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults (≥65 years), and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. If you have any concerns about your health, you should contact your healthcare provider.

What is the treatment for Zika virus? There is no medicine to treat Zika virus infection. In order to decrease the symptoms, get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and take medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol to relieve fever and pain.

What should I do if I am pregnant and have traveled or am thinking about traveling to an area where Zika virus is being transmitted? Current recommendations indicate that pregnant women should postpone travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is occurring. CDC travel advisories can be found here and current guidance for pregnant women can be found here.

How concerned should I be about Zika virus in Georgia? Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in countries in the Americas in 2015. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to people. There has never been a case of locally‐acquired Zika virus reported in Georgia as of January 2016.

Information above is provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health.
For more information on Zika from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, please click here.