Zika is a virus mainly spread by mosquitoes. More than two dozen countries in the Americas have reported active cases and the World Health Organization has issued a public health emergency.
Most of the time, Zika is a mild illness that goes away in a week.
Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye. It’s rare to die from Zika. So if it’s so mild, why is everyone talking about Zika right now? Good question.
The main concern is the virus’ link to birth defects. While not proven for sure, health officials think Zika may be linked to microcephaly, in which a baby is born with a small head and may have potential developmental issues. Another concern is Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition that causes nerve damage and paralysis, though the link to Zika hasn’t been proven on that either.
No Zika cases have been reported from mosquitoes in the continental United States, though Puerto Rico is struggling with the virus. There are some cases of Zika in the U.S. from travelers who caught it elsewhere. And some people in the U.S. have acquired it by having sex with partners who were infected during their travels
Health officials are predicting there’s a good chance that Zika will be spread by mosquitoes here eventually, as the type of mosquito that spreads the disease lives in the U.S.
So right now, you’re probably wondering, “How do I keep mosquitoes away from me?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this advice:
- Wear long sleeve shirts and pants.
- Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
- Use insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and use as directed.
For more tips on Zika that you can share with your family, friends and community, download our new fact sheet. And check out our latest Get Ready Report podcast for more insights.