What is Zika virus?
Zika is a virus spread to people through bites of infected mosquitoes.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease?
Up to 80% of people who are infected do not become sick. For the 20% who do become sick, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms begin 2 – 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. The illness may be mistaken for dengue virus or chikungunya virus, two other mosquito-borne diseases. No specific treatment is available but people infected with the virus may receive medications to help relieve the symptoms.
How dangerous is this disease?
The Zika virus is not contagious. It cannot be spread by casual contact with an infected person. For those who contract the virus and are symptomatic, most people fully recover and do not need to be hospitalized. However, several months following the outbreak of Zika in Brazil, a large increase in the number of babies born with a congenital birth defect called microcephaly was observed. Microcephaly describes a baby or child with a smaller than normal head. A study is being done to see if the increase in reports of babies with microcephaly is due to an infection with Zika virus during pregnancy as this complication had not been previously reported with Zika virus. Other causes of microcephaly are also being investigated.In addition, during an outbreak in French Polynesia that caused approximately 20,000 cases, there were reports of neurologic diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome as well as central nervous system malformations in newborn babies.
Where is Zika virus found?
Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Because the mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries. In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed case of Zika virus disease. Locally transmitted Zika has not been reported elsewhere in the United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers. For an updated list, visit the CDC website.
Are New Yorkers at risk?
New Yorkers who travel to affected areas are potentially at risk. Advice for travelers is described below. New Yorkers who do not travel to Brazil or another affected area are not currently at risk. The virus has not been identified anywhere in the continental United States. Puerto Rico recently reported a locally acquired case. The mosquito, Aedes aegypti, thought to be responsible for spreading the disease in Latin America is not found in NYC.