Zika Virus Disease
Zika virus disease, or Zika fever, is a viral infection transmitted to humans through bites of infected mosquitoes. While most people with the disease only have mild flu-like symptoms, the virus may cause birth defects in babies of infected pregnant women. The virus takes its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Zika virus is a virus of genus Flavivirus, the same genus the Dengue and Japanese encephalitis viruses fall under. It is spread to humans via the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito; it can also be spread from a mother to her child during pregnancy, or between partners during sexual intercourse.

Most people with the Zika virus do not have any symptoms. Usually, the immune system can find and kill off the virus within a few days. Those who do get symptoms start to do so a few days after the bite. These may last a few days to a week. A person may have flu-like symptoms, including: • Fever • Rash • Eye redness and irritation • Headache • Muscle and joint pain

If an individual has any of the above symptoms and is either currently staying in or recently traveled to an area with known Zika fever cases, then he/she should be evaluated for the virus. A person’s blood and/or urine may be taken for RT-PCR testing (for blood and urine samples) or antibody testing (for blood samples) to establish the diagnosis. It is also important to evaluate individuals like these for dengue and chikungunya, as the Zika fever may closely resemble these two illnesses. Currently, there are no specific antiviral medications for the Zika virus. Since most individuals recover within a week, only supportive care is necessary. This involves getting enough rest, drinking enough water, and taking paracetamol to control fever and pain.

Mosquito avoidance is a key strategy in preventing the spread of the virus. Even those infected should avoid getting bit by mosquitoes during the first week of their illness. This is because mosquitoes could get the virus and, in turn, potentially spread it to other people. Tips to help avoid mosquito bites include: • minimizing outdoor activities during the cooler hours at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active • wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants • using mosquito repellent on exposed skin • staying in air-conditioned rooms or rooms with window and door screens • sleeping under a mosquito net Since birth defects are a known complication of the virus, preventive measures should be done by pregnant women or women who want to get pregnant. These include: • avoiding travel to areas with a known Zika virus outbreak • avoiding mosquitoes, if traveling to or living in said areas • abstaining from sexual intercourse or using condoms correctly and consistently
Last Updated: February 21, 2024