The Zika virus

Zero in on the facts

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Medical icon What is it?

The Zika virus is a germ that causes a mild illness. People who catch Zika usually get better without medical treatment. In a few cases, Zika may cause severe illness or birth defects.

MinuteClinic® now has the ability to conduct assessment for exposure to the Zika virus, treat the symptoms and refer you for testing, if needed.

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How is Zika spread?

The virus is found in the blood and semen of infected people.
It can spread in three ways:

  • Mosquito bite
  • Sex
  • From a pregnant woman to her fetus

Who is likely to catch Zika?

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda. Since then, outbreaks have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Additional Zika cases have been treated in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Puerto Rico, and South America. People who live in or travel to these regions may have the highest risk for catching Zika.

New York, Florida, California, and Texas have the highest number of reported Zika cases in the United States. These patients caught Zika when traveling outside the U.S. or by having sex with an infected partner. In July 2016, is was discovered that Zika was transmitted by mosquitos in Florida. For information about areas in the United States with Zika, visit

What are the symptoms of Zika?

The most common symptoms associated with Zika virus are:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Eye redness
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache

Many infected people have no symptoms or have only mild symptoms.

Most people get well in a few days or a week after being bitten. Some people develop an uncommon condition called Guillain-Barre that affects the nervous system. This illness may lead to weakness that lasts for months.

Fetuses exposed to Zika may develop birth defects. For example, they may have a small head (microcephaly) or other health problems.

Once a person has recovered from Zika and has cleared the virus from their system, they don't spread the virus. They are usually immune from catching Zika again.

How is Zika diagnosed and treated?

Most people do not seek testing for Zika. However, your doctor may run tests to check for the virus if you are pregnant. If the test is positive, you may need extra ultrasounds to monitor fetal growth.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. There is no drug that cures this illness. Your body's immune system fights the virus. At-home treatment is simple.

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take Tylenol (acetaminophen) for fever.

Note: Don't take aspirin or ibuprofen if you get sick from a mosquito bite until a Zika diagnosis is confirmed. Check with your doctor if you are taking other medications.

How can you help prevent Zika?

Two kinds of mosquitos (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictuscan) spread Zika. These species are common in the southeastern U.S. and many places around the world. They usually bite during the day but may also attack at night. Just a few infected mosquitos can make many people ill.

Lower your risk for Zika by not getting bitten.

  • Wear clothing that covers arms and legs.
  • Treat items such as pants, socks, boots and tents with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. Do not use permethrin directly on skin. Follow all product label instructions for safety and effectiveness.
  • Use a mosquito spray with DEET or another EPA-registered insect repellent.
    Always follow the product label instructions:
    • Don't spray repellent on skin under clothing.
    • Apply sunscreen first, repellent last.
    • Reapply repellent as directed.
    • Take special care to apply repellents correctly on children.
  • Protect your baby by placing mosquito netting over baby carriers and strollers.
  • Use mosquito nets if sleeping outdoors.
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
    • Use screens on windows and doors.
    • Use air conditioning when available.
    • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water. This includes tires, buckets, planters, toys, flowerpots, or trash containers.
    • Use treatment tablets for water that cannot be drained.

Making your own Zika prevention kit is simple. A kit includes bed nets, permethrin spray, mosquito spray, standing water treatment tablets and condoms. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for using each product.

Keep others safe if you are infected

Do you have Zika? Protect yourself from mosquito bites in the first week after infection. That way, mosquitos can't carry the virus to other people.

Use condoms when having sex if you have Zika. Be aware that the virus may still be passed to a partner even after you feel better.

Illustration of a Doctor, Mom and Nurse.

Zika and Pregnancy

A small number of Zika-infected women in the U.S. have miscarried or had children with serious birth defects. The CDC does not know if these problems were directly caused by the Zika virus.

  • Educate yourself. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, seek medical attention and ask as many questions as possible.
  • Lower your risk. Purchase or prepare a Zika prevention kit to reduce your risk of catching the virus from mosquitos or from a sexual partner.
  • Monitor your health. If you are pregnant and think you have been exposed to Zika, see your doctor right away for testing. Test results for Zika are most likely to be accurate when you are tested early.

Concerned about catching Zika on a trip?

Remember that there is no Zika vaccine at this time. Research Zika outbreaks on the CDC website before you travel. Avoid areas with high infection rates. Take care to avoid mosquito bites. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before traveling.

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