The Zika Virus: What You Should Know

Updated 8-11-16

What is Zika?

  • Zika is a virus related to dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus.

Zika virus
How is it spread?

  • Zika is spread to humans primarily by the Aedes species of mosquito. This species is rarely, if ever, found in Utah.
  • Sexual transmission is possible, but rare.

What are the symptoms and how dangerous is it?

  • Only about 20% of those infected will develop symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint/muscle pain, and red eyes. These symptoms usually last from 2-7 days. Zika illness is usually mild and rarely results in hospitalization or death.
  • Zika is associated with microcephaly (a birth defect causing an abnormally small head) in infants due to their mothers being infected while pregnant. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a Global Emergency in order to try to contain the spread of the disease. Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).
  • While the WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions at this time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised pregnant women to postpone travel to affected areas. Women who are trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctor before such travel and should follow strict mosquito bite prevention methods. The WHO advises that couples planning a pregnancy, living or returning from a Zika active area, should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive, or 6 months if the male partner was symptomatic.

How is Zika prevented?

  • If you travel to a country where Zika is active, you can prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent , wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and removing standing water where mosquitoes live and breed.
  • Mosquito control efforts in areas where Aedes  mosquitoes are found.
  • Sexual abstinence or protection if living in an area where Zika is active, and for at least 8 weeks after travel to an affected area.

Where is Zika occurring?

  • Locally-acquired Zika infections were first detected in the Americas in May 2015. Local infections have now been reported in over 50 countries or territories in Central and South America and the Pacific Islands. Brazil remains the epicenter of the current outbreak. There have been local mosquito-acquired cases reported in the United States (Miami, Florida area).

How will the United States be affected?

  • With Zika outbreaks in other countries, cases among U.S. travelers will likely increase for a period of time. However, it is unlikely that any large Zika outbreaks will occur in the United States. Most U.S. cases have been infected during travel overseas.

Who should be tested to see if they have the virus?

  • Laboratory tests for Zika virus infection diagnosis are of limited availability. People can contact their healthcare provider, who should then consult with the Utah Department of Health for approval, if they meet the following criteria;
    • Pregnant women with a history of travel to an area with active Zika transmission, up to 12 weeks after returning.
    • Men returning from an area with active Zika transmission who have a pregnant partner, up to 12 weeks after returning.

Is there a Zika vaccine?

  • No, however there are cooperative efforts being started to develop one.



Utah Department of Health: Zika 

CDC: Zika Virus

CDC: Travel Infromation

Washington County Mosquito Abatement District

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