Zika virus infection is caused by a virus that is passed from an infected mosquito. Most people will have mild flu-like problems. Severe illness is rare.
The Zika virus is also linked to birth defects. See Zika Virus Infection and Pregnancy to learn more.
A specific type of mosquito can pick up the Zika virus when it bites someone with a current Zika infection. The mosquito can then pass the virus to the next person it bites. The virus spreads in the body and leads to symptoms.
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This problem is more common in people who spend time in a high risk area without proper mosquito protection. Zika has been linked to:
- South America: Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela
- Mexico and Central America: El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama
- The Caribbean: Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, and Saint Martin
Outbreaks have also happened in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Most people will not have symptoms. The body can find and remove the virus before problems start.
Others will have symptoms a few days after the bite. They may last a few days to a week. A person may have:
- Eye redness and irritation
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may be asked about any recent travel to high risk places. A physical exam will be done.
Many viruses can be passed from mosquitoes. A blood test will be done to find out which virus is causing symptoms.
Most people get better on their own within a week. There are no medicines to treat a Zika virus infection. The goal is to manage symptoms until they pass. Choices are:
- Home care, such as rest and drinking fluids
- Over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen
The Zika virus may exist in the body or in sperm for a period of time even after symptoms have passed. To lower the risk of passing the virus to a fetus:
- Women who have been infected or suspect an infection should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
- Men who have been infected or had possible exposure to Zika should wait at least 6 months before trying to have a child with their partner.
Those who have been to high risk places but have not shown symptoms should wait at least 8 weeks before attempting pregnancy.
There is no vaccine for the Zika virus. The risk of infection may be lowered by mosquito control measures, especially when spending time in places that are high risk.
There is some concern that the Zika virus can be passed during sexual activities. Condoms can prevent the spread. They should be used for the first week after visiting a high risk place.
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Public Health Agency of Canada
Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). Zika virus infection. PAHO/WHO 2016 Jan 27.
Zika virus disease. World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/zika-virus-disease. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Zika virus: print resources. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/fs-posters/index.html. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Zika virus infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/zika-virus-infection. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Zika virus in pregnancy and congenital Zika syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/zika-virus-infection. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 2/8/2021