Zika Virus Quick Overview
- Zika virus is a virus that can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes or via sexual contact.
- It is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever, Chikungunya, and yellow fever. With climate warming, the habitat for this mosquito is expanding.
- Zika virus causes Zika fever, which is very similar to dengue but is usually milder. Zika fever symptoms and signs include
- Zika virus typically resolves on its own.
- Zika virus has rapidly spread from Africa and Southeast Asia into the Americas.
- Although Zika fever is mild, it can cause severe birth defects in unborn children. Severe birth defects are likely to be a risk from Zika virus infection throughout the duration of pregnancy.
- Microcephaly is one of these severe birth defects, in which the brain is underdeveloped, causing the head to be abnormally small. This defect cannot be outgrown and is associated with delayed development, neurological abnormalities, and intellectual disability.
- Other severe birth defects are also associated with Zika virus.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome and other neurologic problems have also been linked to Zika virus infections. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a paralytic condition that is triggered in certain individuals after various types of infections. Recovery may take months, and there may only be partial improvement.
- In January 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended pregnant women postpone travel to areas where Zika virus is reported, and if they do travel, to strictly avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in those areas. Zika virus has been detected in semen, and sexual transmission to a non-traveling partner has been documented from men to women, as well as men to men. Men who have lived or traveled in active Zika transmission areas are advised to avoid sex or use condoms if their female partner may be pregnant; they should do this during the entire pregnancy because it is not known how long the virus remains in semen.
- Guidelines for health-care providers caring for pregnant women exposed to Zika virus have been issued.
- Zika virus is unlikely to infect a person more than once.
- The situation is evolving. Researchers and public-health authorities are investigating Zika virus closely. Vaccines and tests are being developed.
What Is the Zika Virus?
Zika virus is a Flavivirus, or a virus belonging to the Flaviviridae family, which includes many viruses, including dengue virus, West Nile virus, and yellow fever virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main insect "vector" (transmitter) of Zika virus, but Aedes albopictus has been documented, as well. These mosquitoes also transmit viruses such as dengue, Chikungunya, yellow fever, viral encephalitis, and some blood parasites.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/23/2016
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