Zika is a virus that is mainly spread by infected mosquito bites. The virus can also spread from unprotected sex with an infected person and from an infected pregnant person to their baby.
Learn more about this disease and ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus similar to yellow fever and West Nile virus. The virus spreads mainly through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species).
Zika can also be passed through unprotected sex with someone infected with Zika or from an infected pregnant person to their baby. Zika infection during pregnancy may cause serious brain defects including microcephaly, in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected upon birth.
It’s also possible to pass Zika through blood transfusions (when someone gets blood from another person), but the chance of getting it is low.
Outbreaks of Zika have been reported in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. As of December 2023, there have been no confirmed Zika cases reported within the U.S. territories since 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keep an updated list of countries where Zika outbreaks have occurred.
Many people infected with Zika don’t have symptoms, so they often don’t know they have the virus.
Those who do get sick usually experience mild symptoms like:
The time between a Zika virus exposure to symptom onset can be three to 14 days with the symptoms then lasting two to seven days. See your health care provider if you have recently traveled to an area with a risk of Zika and start having any of these symptoms.
Zika infection during pregnancy may lead to serious complications. Zika may cause serious birth defects and other concerns, such as eye problems, hearing loss and seizures. Because of the risk of birth defects, pregnant people should avoid travel to areas with a risk of Zika.
In rare cases, people with Zika may trigger sicknesses of the nervous system such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, an illness where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its nerves.
Zika infection is diagnosed with blood or urine (pee) tests.
There are no medications available to treat a Zika infection. Your health care provider can help manage the symptoms. They may recommend:
The CDC gives steps to protect yourself if you are caring for a person with Zika.
Talk to your health care provider immediately regarding testing if you have traveled to an area where Zika is active and/or if you have come into contact with the Zika virus.
If you’re pregnant and test positive for Zika, your provider might refer you to a specialist for further care and support. The specialist will monitor your pregnancy closely and test your baby for Zika virus infection.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to avoid traveling to areas where outbreaks happen.
If you are considering traveling to an area with a risk of Zika, talk to your health care provider about the risks, the ways to protect yourself and the signs of illness.
If you’re traveling to an area where Zika is found, take these steps to prevent mosquito bites:
Because it is possible for Zika to be transmitted through sex, take the following steps recommended by the CDC to protect yourself and your partner: