You may have heard or read about the Zika virus in the media. The World Health Organization has declared this a Global Health Emergency. Although the direct risk to most of us in this region is very low, there are issues related to this virus that can impact our community. The Infection Prevention Department at Cooper University Health Care has created this FAQ to provide you with clarification and resources to help you navigate through all of the information.
How do you get the Zika virus?
Zika is a viral infection that is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, a mosquito that is not commonly found in the U.S. and is rare in New Jersey. This is the same mosquito that can transmit dengue fever and chikungunya viruses.
Can anyone coming into contact with someone with Zika virus become infected?
There is no known risk of transmission through casual contact with infected individuals; for example, in public places, in schools, or in health care settings. No special precautions (masks, gloves) are needed in day-to-day situations.
There have been rare documented cases of the virus being transmitted through sexual contact.
What are the symptoms?
The Zika virus is very mild and only one in five people who are infected become symptomatic. Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain, and headaches.
How can it be treated?
Like many viruses, there is no treatment. It must run its course, which may take from several days to a week. The focus is on symptom relief, similar to that for the flu: rest, fluids, and acetaminophen for fever.
Who is at risk?
The people at highest risk are pregnant women because the virus can be transmitted to unborn babies, which may cause potentially severe birth defects. Women who are pregnant or of childbearing age and may become pregnant have been asked by the Centers for Disease Control not to travel to countries where the virus is common.
What countries have the virus?
There are at least 30 countries where the Zika virus is commonly found and more will likely be added to the list. Currently the virus is most predominantly found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico.
In the United States, the greater concern is with screening and identifying individuals that have traveled to these countries who have symptoms, and following pregnant women who may have been exposed to or infected with this virus.
If I’m pregnant and I have traveled to one of the affected areas, what should I do?
Women who are pregnant and who have traveled to or from an area where Zika virus is present, immediately before or anytime during their pregnancy, should contact their obstetrician and/or primary care provider for guidance.
You can find more information about the Zika virus at the following websites: