How do people get the Zika virus?

Usually, through a mosquito bite. Only certain mosquitoes (Aedes mosquitoes) can spread Zika. Although common in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and South America, this type has not yet been found in New York, although it is present in the Miami, Florida area.  The infection can also be spread through sexual contact with someone with Zika, even if the infected person has no symptoms.

Does the Zika virus make you feel sick?

Most people (80%) who get infected with Zika do not get sick. Those who get sick experience mild symptoms similar to common viral infections: fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Is there treatment for Zika?

There is no treatment for Zika, but medicine (like acetaminophen) can help relieve the symptoms. Most people recover on their own by resting and drinking fluids.

Should I get tested if I have these symptoms?

Only if you are pregnant and have spent time in a Zika-affected area while pregnant

OR

If you are pregnant and, while pregnant, had condomless vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who spent time in a Zika-affected area.

Why is Zika so dangerous?

Women who are or may become pregnant must take extra precaution because Zika causes birth defects, including very small skulls (microcephaly) and brain damage. Specifically, women who:

  • Live in or travel to Zika infected parts of the world and become pregnant;
  • Have unprotected sex (vaginal, oral, anal) with a man with possible exposure to or with a recent Zika infection in the prior 6 months.
  • In rare cases, individuals with Zika experience severe complications, such as a temporary form of paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) or brain infection. Symptoms usually start two to 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and may last up to a week.

How is Zika spread?

In addition to being bitten by infected mosquitos, Zika can be spread through sexual contact and blood contact (i.e., blood transfusions, sharing injection equipment). Zika is not spread by casual contact.

Can Zika be treated or prevented medically?

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. There is no medicine to cure Zika.

What are the best ways to prevent infection?

If you are or planning to be pregnant, avoid traveling to an area with Zika.

If you must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your primary care provider first.

If your partner is pregnant, use condoms or avoid sex until after the pregnancy.

Use condoms correctly every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex or do not have sex until your partner gives birth.

If you or your partner are not pregnant, are not planning to be pregnant, and travel to an area with Zika:

  • Men and women should use condoms or not have sex forat least 8 weeks after returning from travel
  • If symptoms appear, men should use condoms or avoid sex for at least 6 months, and women should use condoms or avoid sex for at least 8 weeks

Use insect repellent:

  • Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3 years old).
  • Use repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow the directions on the label
  • Apply sunscreen first, then the repellent.
  • Insect repellent is safe for pregnant women.
  • Do not use insect repellent on infants less than 2 months old. Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent themselves.
  • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth or any irritated skin or cuts.

Avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants; dress children the same way.
  • Wear clothing treated with permethrin (a chemical that repels insects).
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
  • Use a mosquito bed-net if you cannot keep mosquitos out of your residence. Cover cribs, strollers and baby carries with mosquito netting.
  • Get rid of standing water that collects in and around your residence, because standing water attracts mosquitoes.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers returning to the U.S. from Zika-affected places take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks, even if they do not feel sick, to avoid spreading Zika to local mosquitoes.

Who should get a Zika blood and urine test?

Most people do not need to get tested for Zika virus, even if they traveled to a place where Zika is spreading. Testing is most important for pregnant women who spent time in a Zika-affected area or who, while pregnant, had condomless sex with someone who spent time in a Zika-affected area.

Where can I get tested for Zika?

Both Quest and LabCorp laboratories are now offering the Zika blood and urine test. These tests can be arranged through you doctor if you at risk due to pregnancy and exposure to a Zika infected area or to unprotected sexual contact with a partner who had Zika exposure.

Are children at risk for Zika?

Infants and children can get Zika, and symptoms are the same as for adults. Infection with Zika around the time of birth or in early childhood has not been linked to microcephaly.

Zika has been found in breastmilk, but there are no reports of mothers spreading Zika to their infants through breastmilk. The CDC encourages mothers in Zika-affected areas to keep breastfeeding because of its many benefits.

RECENT UPDATES

  • After 5 NYC infants have been identified with congenital Zika virus syndrome, the NYC Department of Health revise their testing and reporting protocol

  • •  Physicians are urged to screen pregnant women for exposure to Zika virus at each prenatal encounter
  • • Providers caring for New York City (NYC) residents should now use commercial laboratories for routine Zika virus testing, including testing of pregnant women, however, providers should request testing through the NYC PHL for certain situations.

Click here for the full DOHMH advisory.

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