What is Zika virus? Zika virus (pronunciation: zee-kah) is a viral disease that is transmitted to people primarily by mosquitoes. Prior to 2015, outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands. In May 2015, Zika virus transmission was confirmed in Brazil and outbreaks are currently occurring in many countries. Zika virus is not currently transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States, but travelers returning from areas where the virus is being spread may become sick after returning home to or visiting the US. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. A list of countries where Zika virus is currently being spread can be found at the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.
How is Zika virus spread? Zika virus is most often spread to people by Aedes spp mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue virus are included in this species. The mosquito becomes infected with Zika virus when it bites a person who has Zika. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people. Zika virus can also be transmitted from mother to fetus and by sexual contact with infected men. In theory, the virus could be spread through a blood transfusion or organ donation, although there are no known reports of this to date.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus? Approximately 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will develop some symptoms. Symptoms usually begin within 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild in healthy adults and may last from several days to a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also associated Zika with microcephaly, a rare birth defect. If you have any concerns about your health, or are pregnant and have recently traveled to a Zika-affected country, you should contact your healthcare provider or the health department.
What is the treatment for Zika virus? There is no medicine specifically for treatment of Zika virus infection. In order to decrease the symptoms, get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and take medicines to relieve fever and pain. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided until dengue virus is ruled out.
Is there a vaccine for Zika virus? There is currently no vaccine to protect humans against Zika virus infection.
What should I do if I am pregnant and have traveled or am thinking about traveling to an area where Zika virus is being transmitted? Current recommendations indicate that pregnant women should postpone travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is occurring. CDC Zika travel advisories can be found here.
Where can outbreaks of Zika virus occur? Outbreaks of Zika virus occur primarily in areas where certain species of mosquito live. Zika virus infection is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes spp mosquito. Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, is the current vector of importance in South and Central America. However, on Yap Island, where the first outbreak of Zika virus outside of its historic area was detected, another species of Aedes was involved that had not ever been implicated as a vector of Zika virus. Therefore, there is always the possibility that a native Aedes spp could become involved.
Can these mosquitoes be found in Georgia? Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, is currently found only in a few areas of Georgia, while Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, is found all over Georgia. These are both aggressive mosquitoes that bite mostly during the daytime. These mosquitoes primarily live near peoples’ homes and do not fly very far. Both species breed in containers, so removing containers or dumping out any standing water at least once a week, or using larvicides such as mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes in water that cannot be dumped out, will reduce the number of these mosquitoes around the home. Georgia also has at least 20 other Aedes spp.
How concerned should I be about Zika virus in Georgia? Local transmission means that local mosquitoes have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to people in the area. There has never been a case of locally‐acquired Zika virus reported in Georgia as of June 2016.
How can I prevent myself from being infected with Zika virus? For travelers to areas with Zika virus, the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes can be reduced by wearing light‐weight long sleeves shirts and long pants and staying in places with air conditioning and/or have window and door screens. Proper application of mosquito repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET on exposed skin also decreases the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Bed nets should be used to help prevent exposure to malaria, but since Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus bite during the day, bed nets will not help prevent exposure to Zika virus, chikungunya, or dengue.
What should I do if I have recently traveled to a country where Zika virus has been found? If you experience fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash within 12 days of returning home, contact your healthcare provider and inform them of your travel history. Minimize your exposure to mosquitoes in the area toprevent transmission of the disease locally. When indoors, use air conditioning and/or ensure that there are no holes in screens on windows and doors. When outdoors, wear long sleeved shirts and pants and/or use mosquito repellent containing 20‐30% DEET on exposed skin. If you are pregnant you should contact your physician for additional follow up even if you are not feeling sick. Interim recommendations for management of pregnant women who have traveled to Zika virus affected countries can be found here.
Who should I contact for more information? For general information about Zika virus and surveillance for mosquito‐borne diseases in Georgia, call your District or County Health Department or the Georgia Department of Public Health at 404‐657‐2588. You may also visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website. For national Zika virus data, visit the CDC website.