APHA Get Ready fact sheet — Zika virus: How to keep your family safe
Mosquitoes are more than just an itchy nuisance. They can also pass on diseases. One of those diseases is Zika. You can take steps to help protect yourself, your family and your community from Zika.
What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused by a virus. It’s mainly spread to people by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites you, it can pass on the virus and make you sick.
Zika illness is usually very mild. You may get symptoms such as a rash, fever, red eyes or joint pain, which usually go away within a week. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 20 percent of people who are infected with Zika will get sick.
Some reports link Zika to Guillain-Barré, a rare condition that causes nerve damage. It’s very rare for anyone to die from Zika.
Zika and pregnant women
The main health concern with Zika is the virus’ effect in pregnant women. If a woman is infected with Zika, she can pass the virus to her fetus. The virus can cause microcephaly and other serious brain, eye or hearing problems in the fetus. Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby is born with a small head and other possible developmental problems.
Because of these concerns, pregnant women shouldn’t travel to areas where Zika virus is being spread, CDC says. Pregnant women in areas with Zika transmission should take care to protect themselves from mosquitoes.
How else is Zika spread?
Zika virus can also be spread via sex, even if a person does not have symptoms. People can protect
themselves by abstaining from sex, CDC says. They can also use barriers, such as condoms, during sex.
Evidence shows Zika can be spread by blood transfusions, the Food and Drug Administration says.
When donating blood, tell health workers if you’ve had Zika, have possibly been exposed to Zika or have had Zika symptoms. To protect others from infection, you may be turned away from giving blood.
How can I prevent or treat Zika?
There are no vaccines or treatments for Zika, other than caring for symptoms. The best way to avoid Zika is to not get bitten by mosquitoes.
Here are some steps CDC recommends:
- When outdoors, wear approved repellents. Follow all directions on the label.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Treat your clothing with the chemical repellent permethrin or buy pre-treated clothes.
- Stay in places with screens on windows and doors that keep mosquitoes out
You can also play a part by getting rid of places where mosquitoes breed around your home. The Environmental Protection Agency says you should get rid of standing water in rain gutters, tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys and containers where mosquitoes might lay eggs.
It’s also a good idea to empty and change water in bird baths, rain barrels and potted plant trays at least once a week, EPA says. Water in swimming pools should be circulated and treated.
What else is known?
Zika virus is spread by a type of mosquito called Aedes. These kinds of mosquitoes also spread dengue and chikungunya. So preventing mosquito bites and mosquito breeding makes sense for many reasons.
For more tips on Zika, visit www.apha.org/zika and www.cdc.gov/zika.
Updated Sept. 22, 2016