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Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

June 15th, 2016

Zika is spread by mosquitos and can lead to birth defects.

Zika virus spreads to people when bitten by an infected mosquito.

Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Symptoms may be mild and can last for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Because symptoms are not usually severe, many people do not seek medical attention and may not even realize they’ve been infected.

During pregnancy, Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller because the brain did not develop properly or stopped growing during pregnancy. This condition can cause seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, hearing loss, and vision problems.

There is not currently a vaccine to protect against Zika. The best protection is through prevention of mosquito bites:

  • wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • use a mosquito bed net if air conditioning and screens are not possible
  • control mosquito population inside and outside your home [CDC mosquito control recommendations]
  • treat clothing and gear with mosquito repellant or buy pre-treated items
  • use mosquito netting for carriers, strollers, and cribs to protect babies under 2 months old
  • prevent sexual transmission of the virus

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You can also find information for more specific groups such as pregnant women, travelers, and couples thinking of becoming pregnant [CDC Information for Specific Groups].