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Zika

Woman looking at pictures of sonogram

Mosquitoes can spread many diseases, including Zika. Although most people with Zika won’t have symptoms, infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from Zika.

Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti or Ae. albopictus). Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners. Although most people with Zika won’t have symptoms,  infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other serious birth defects in babies.

The mosquitoes that carry Zika can be found in many countries, and outbreaks of Zika are still occurring in parts of the world. Everyone can take steps to protect themselves and pregnant women in the United States.

Symptoms of Zika:  joint pain, fever, red eyes, headache, rash, muscle pain

If you’ve been to an area with risk of Zika and have symptoms of Zika after travel, see your healthcare provider.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Zika

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t know they have it because they won’t have symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and can last 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. The most common symptoms of Zika include

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Muscle pain

See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you have the symptoms described above and have visited an area with risk of Zika. This is especially important if you are pregnant.  Be sure to tell your doctor or other healthcare provider where you traveled. Even if you do not feel sick, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after travel so you do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.

Man holding baby clothes and kissing pregnant woman

Anyone who traveled to or lives in an area with risk of Zika can protect their pregnant partner from Zika by using condoms from start to finish every time they have sex, or by not having sex during the pregnancy.

Zika Can Cause Birth Defects

Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause 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. Because of the risk for birth defects, pregnant women should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. Pregnant women who travel to or live in areas with risk of Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites and use condoms or not have sex during their pregnancy to avoid getting Zika from their partner.

Women and their partners thinking about pregnancy should talk to a healthcare provider before traveling to areas with risk of Zika. If a couple decides to travel to an area with risk of Zika, they should consider waiting to get pregnant. If the couple travels together or only the male partner travels, they should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after travel. If only the female partner travels, the couple should consider waiting at least 2 months after travel.

Protect Yourself , Your Family, and Your Community from Zika

There is no vaccine to protect against Zika. If you’re traveling to an area with risk of Zika, the best way to prevent Zika is to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and 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 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 risk of Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not pass Zika to mosquitoes that could then spread the virus to other people.

Illustration of father applying insect repellant to daughter's face

Adults 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, see CDC’s Zika website. For more information on Zika and pregnancy see the Zika website for pregnant women.

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