Zika Virus

Virus first discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda

Zika is a virus. It is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. It was first discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. For many decades, it was thought to be a rare cause of infection. It was found only in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. But in April 2015, it was found in Brazil. It has since spread quickly to many countries in South and Central America, and to the Caribbean and Mexico.

A number of cases have also been found in the U.S. Most of these cases are related to travel to other parts of the world where mosquitoes are spreading it. There has now been some locally acquired cases in Florida. Other states in the US, including Texas and Hawaii, may also be capable of having locally acquired cases. Find all up-to-date information about where Zika virus transmission may be occurring in the US on the Centers for Disease Control website.

What causes Zika?

The Zika virus is mostly passed on by the bite of the mosquito (Aedes species). Pregnant women who have it can likely also give it to their unborn child. It may also be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion. But experts know so little about the virus that they are still learning all the ways it can be passed on.

Symptoms of Zika

Most people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. For the 1 out of 5 people who do have symptoms, they are usually very mild. Symptoms last 5 to 7 days and then go away completely. They may include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Conjunctivitis, when the eyes become red, irritated, and inflamed

Treatment for Zika

There is no medicine to cure the Zika virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms. Treatments include:

  • You may feel better more quickly if you get plenty of rest.
  • Drinking lots of fluids will help you stay hydrated. Water and sports drinks are good choices. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
  • Acetaminophen can help ease fever and pain.

Possible complications of Zika

  • Microcephaly in newborns. Pregnant women who are infected with Zika may pass it on to their unborn child. This is true even if the woman has no symptoms. These children may be born with microcephaly. This birth defect causes a smaller than normal head and a less developed brain. It can lead to developmental problems, learning disabilities, and neurological problems.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults. This disease causes severe muscle weakness or paralysis.