Zika Basics

Zika Virus 101

Información básica sobre
el virus del Zika (Español)

What is Zika?

  • Zika virus is a member of the family Flaviviridae that is primarily transmitted to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. It can also be spread mother-to-baby during pregnancy or through unprotected sexual contact.
  • Infection with Zika virus causes Zika fever or Zika disease. Only 20% – 25% of people infected with Zika virus develop symptoms. For those who do, symptoms develop 3-12 days after being exposed to Zika virus and include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (eye redness), muscle pain, and headache.
  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika Virus infection, or specific medicine to treat it. People infected with Zika virus are encouraged to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, take medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to relieve fever and pain, (do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and talk to their doctors about whether to continue taking any existing medications they are taking.

Why is Zika a Public Health Concern?

  • Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby during pregnancy. This can cause severe brain defects, including microcephaly (abnormally small head and brain) and other serious nervous system defects. Find out more by visiting our Zika and Pregnancy page.
  • Instances of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) may be increased by Zika Virus infection. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an illness where a person's own immune system damages the nerve cells causing weakness and possible paralysis. GBS is strongly associated with Zika virus; however, only a small proportion of people with Zika virus infection get GBS. While most people recover from GBS, some people have permanent damage and in rare cases, people have died. Find out more by visiting the CDC’s page on Zika and Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Who is at Risk for Zika Virus Infection?

  • Because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, people who live in or travel to areas where the mosquitoes live are most at risk of infection. The CDC has up-to-date information on areas with active Zika transmission.
  • Zika virus can also be spread sexually, so people who have unprotected sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal) with a partner who had Zika virus disease or who traveled, regardless of symptoms, to an area with active Zika virus transmission are at increased risk of infection.

How can Zika Virus Infection be Prevented?

Zika virus can be prevented by preventing mosquito bites and by practicing safe sex with people who have recently traveled to areas where Zika virus is actively circulating. Visit our Prevention page to find out more about preventing mosquito bites and safe sex practices.

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