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What Is Zika Virus Disease?

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. Infection in pregnant women can result in congenital malformations in the unborn baby, especially microcephaly.

Where Is It Prevalent?

Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika forest in Uganda. In 1952, the first human cases of Zika were detected and since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in many locations. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases were likely to have occurred and were not reported. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, many cases may not have been recognized.

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil and on Feb 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories.

Zika virus is likely to continue to spread to new areas.

Travel Alert

Currently Zika virus infection has been documented in the Caribbean ( Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands), in Central America ( Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama), in Mexico, the Pacific islands ( American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga) and in South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela).

Advisory

  • It is recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to these countries
  • For protection against ticks and mosquitoes:
    • Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
    • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
    • Follow package directions when applying on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Other measures to prevent mosquito bites.
    • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
    • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

What Should I Do If I Am Bitten By Bugs?

  • If you are bitten by mosquitoes:
    • Avoid scratching mosquito bites.
    • Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.
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