Learn more about the Zika virus, how it spreads, what symptoms to look for, and how to protect your family.
Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species) in many parts of the world.
Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe brain defects in babies.
CDC is studying Zika virus transmission and its links to other health conditions. Everyone can take steps to protect themselves and pregnant women in the United States.
If you’ve been to an area with Zika and develop a fever, rash, joint pains, or conjunctivitis within 2 weeks of travel, see your healthcare provider.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Zika
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The sickness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Symptoms of Zika include:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
If you have been to an area with Zika and develop these symptoms within 2 weeks of travel, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may test you for other viruses like dengue or chikungunya. Even if you do not feel sick, if you return from an area with Zika, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so you do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.
Zika Can Cause Birth Defects
CDC issued travel notices for people traveling to regions and countries with Zika. CDC received reports of microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other birth defects in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika while pregnant. There’s no vaccine to prevent Zika. Pregnant women can avoid getting infected by preventing mosquito bites and by using condoms correctly every time or not having sex with partners who live in or have been to areas with Zika. Condoms include male or female condoms.
Anyone who traveled to or lives in areas where Zika is spreading can protect their pregnant partners from sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms correctly, every time they have sex, or by not having sex during the pregnancy.
Zika and Sexual Transmission
Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners. Sex includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys.
Zika can be passed through sex, even if the infected person does not have symptoms at the time. The virus can be spread before, during, and after the symptoms end. Anyone who travels to or lives in areas with Zika can prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using a condom from start to finish, every time they have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or by not having sex. Condoms include male and female condoms. Dental dams (latex or polyurethane sheets) may also be used for certain types of oral sex (mouth to vagina or mouth to anus). For people with pregnant partners, these steps should be taken throughout the woman’s pregnancy to protect the fetus. Pregnant women with sex partners who think they may have or had Zika should tell their healthcare providers about his or her travel history and whether they had sex without a condom.
Protect Your Family from Zika
If you’re traveling to an area with Zika, the best way to prevent getting infected with and spreading Zika is to prevent mosquito bites and take steps to prevent sexual transmission of Zika during and after travel.
Take these steps to prevent mosquito bites
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Make sure to check for and fix any holes in screens.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
- When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing. Put on clothing first, and then apply repellent to any exposed skin.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing can protect after multiple washings. See the product’s information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Even if you do not feel sick, travelers returning from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not pass Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
Zika and Pregnancy
- Zika can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
- Infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
- Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika.
- Women trying to get pregnant should talk to a doctor before traveling to areas with Zika.
- Zika virus can be sexually transmitted from a person infected with Zika to his or her sex partners. People who live in or traveled to an area with Zika and have a pregnant sex partner should use condoms to protect against infection correctly, every time they have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or not have sex during the pregnancy.
Parents should spray repellent onto their hands and apply to child’s face.
If you have a baby or child:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or cut or irritated skin.
- Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to your child’s face.
Prevent mosquito bites even after you return from traveling to areas with Zika. If you get infected, even if you don’t get sick, Zika virus can be found in your blood and passed to mosquitoes through mosquito bites. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people.
For more information on Zika virus, clinical and travel recommendations, and for fact sheets and resources, see the Zika website. For more information on Zika and pregnancy see the Zika website for pregnant women.
- Page last reviewed: December 7, 2016
- Page last updated: December 7, 2016
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Infectious Diseases, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs