Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Zika Virus
Zika virus is a type of virus that is spread by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that carry Zika are most active during the day but can bite at night.
You're more likely to get the virus if you travel to parts of the world where it's more common. This includes parts of South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
A Zika infection is usually mild and may not cause symptoms. But it can be more serious for women who are pregnant because it can cause birth defects.
Experts have found that infection with Zika virus can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). But only a small number of people who are infected with Zika virus will get GBS.
To learn more
Doctors are quickly learning more about what happens when people are infected with Zika virus. The most current information about Zika virus is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If you are planning international travel, you can learn about the risk of Zika in the area you're traveling to. Contact:
Travelers who have Zika can spread it when they come home or travel to another area. If they get bitten, they can spread the virus to other mosquitoes.
A pregnant woman who gets infected with Zika can pass it to her unborn baby.
Zika can be spread through sexual contact even if the person does not have symptoms. But it is most often spread through a bite from an infected mosquito.
Most people infected with Zika don't have any symptoms.
The main symptoms are fever, rash, painful joints, and red eyes. Symptoms are usually mild. They most often start within a week after the bite.
Some people also have a headache and muscle pain.
There is no treatment for Zika virus. Symptoms usually go away on their own after about a week.
Treating your symptoms may help you feel better.
Experts believe that babies born to women infected with Zika virus are at risk for birth defects, including microcephaly (say "my-kroh-SEF-uh-lee"). Microcephaly means that the baby's head is smaller than normal. It causes problems in how the baby's brain develops.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women wait until after they give birth before they travel to areas where there are Zika outbreaks.
Zika can spread through sexual contact even if the person does not have symptoms. If your male partner has been to an area where there is a Zika outbreak, the CDC recommends you delay having sex until the baby is born or use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
If you are pregnant and have traveled to an area with an outbreak of Zika, talk to your doctor about additional tests you may need.
Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant and their male partners should talk to their doctor about the risk of traveling to areas where there are Zika outbreaks. Experts recommend that you delay pregnancy if you or your male partner has been to an area with ongoing Zika transmission.
After returning from an area with risk of Zika:
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus. But you can protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially when you travel. Remember that the mosquitoes that spread Zika are active during the day.
If you have been to an area where there is a Zika outbreak, use condoms or do not have sex for at least 2 months for women and 3 months for men.
If you do get infected with Zika, protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially during the first week. Men should use condoms or not have sex for at least 3 months after symptoms begin. Women should use condoms or not have sex for at least 2 months after symptoms begin. This will help prevent the virus from spreading to other people.
Current as of: December 13, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineW. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Current as of:
December 13, 2018
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & W. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.