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Zika Virus 101

What is the Zika virus?

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.

INFOGRAPHIC: CDC’s Response to Zika – What We Know (PDF)

How is it spread?

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.

What are the risks?

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.

How can I prevent it?

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 below during the trip:

• Apply EPA-registered insect repellants (homemade repellants may not offer protection)
• Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and closed toed shoes
• Use bed nets
• Avoid wearing perfume
• 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. Condoms should be used every time you have sex if you or your partner are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant.

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Did you know?
Before 2015, Zika outbreaks occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands; in May 2015, Brazil. Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health emergency of international concern. On February 8, 2016, President Obama announced a request for $1.8 billion in emergency funds to accelerate research into a vaccine and educate populations at risk for disease.