Expert Health Articles

Zika Virus

Colleen AbramsColleen Abrams, MT(ASCP)

Infection Preventionist

With the warmer weather returning, we will also see the return of mosquitoes. One of the newer diseases associated with mosquitoes is the Zika virus. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters but can also bite at night.

The virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Zika can also be passed via sexual transmission from a person who has Zika to his or her partner. It can also spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites, as there is no vaccine to prevent Zika. Precautions to take include:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents (always follow label instructions)
  • Taking steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home
  • Staying in places with air conditioning and windows or door screens to keep mosquitoes outside

In general, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that pregnant women shouldn’t travel to areas with Zika virus.  But if you must travel to these areas, talk to your health care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.  If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms to prevent the spread of the virus.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetuses to have a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. This is a condition in which the baby’s head is much smaller than normal for an infant of that age and gender. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth – eye defects, hearing deficits and impaired growth.

Many people infected with Zika won’t exhibit any symptoms.  Some will have only mild symptoms.  The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes.  Other common symptoms includes muscle pain and headache.  The symptoms can last for several days to a week.  People usually don’t get sick enough to see a medical provider and very rarely die of Zika. 

Remember, if you have Zika and a mosquito bites you, you can pass the virus to the mosquito. If the infected mosquito bites other people, they can get infected.

There is no specific medicine to treat Zika, so we treat the symptoms. We recommend:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Taking medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain
    • Avoid aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

To help prevent others from getting sick, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness.

Recent data from the Ohio Department of Health (3/9/17) shows the following data on Zika virus in Ohio:

Cases acquired outside Ohio during travel – 94 in 2016, 2 in 2017

Cases acquired in Ohio by mosquito – 0

Cases acquired by sexual transmission – 1 in 2016, 0 in 2017

To see areas that have Zika virus, go to https://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

To find out more about Zika, go to https://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html