Facts about the Zika virus

Zika virus transmitted by mosquito

If you follow the news, you’ve probably seen the coverage about a virus causing a lot of concern in Central and South America. It’s called the Zika virus. Here are some of the things you need to know about it.

According to Joan Ivaska, a senior director for Banner Health’s Infection Prevention, Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus similar to West Nile Virus.

“The Zika virus is transmitted through a mosquito bite and may cause mild symptoms such fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye,” Ivaska said. “Much like West Nile Virus, as many as 80 percent of infected individuals never know they have been infected.”

What may make Zika particularly troubling is that there have been reports that newborns, whose mothers were infected with Zika, have been born with serious birth defects.

How can you get the Zika virus?

Besides being bitten by a mosquito, you can get it through a blood transfusion, sexual contact with an infected person or coming in contact with an infected person’s blood. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine or treatment available for the Zika virus.

“Zika virus is not transmitted through casual contact,” Ivaska said.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following methods to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in the U.S.:

  • If infected with the Zika virus, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites for one week.
  • Pregnant women should avoid travel to countries where Zika virus is being transmitted. If travel cannot be postponed, pregnant women should talk with their health care provider before travelling and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

Additionally, the CDC recommends the following prevention methods if travelling to a Zika-affected country:

  • Use mosquito repellents as directed on the bottle. You can use many insect repellents on children, but avoid products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus in children under the age of 3 years.
  • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection.
  • When using sunscreen and a repellent, make sure you apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing. Instead, treat your clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent.
  • Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure screens do not have holes so mosquitoes stay outside. If neither is available, use a mosquito net over your bed.
  • Mosquitos breed in water. Empty any standing water in containers outside your home or hotel room.

To see countries that are affected, visit the CDC’s website for up-to-date information.

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