Zika Disease, Risks, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

What is Zika?

Zika is a viral infection caused by the Zika virus, which is primarily spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Although the virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, it can also be passed on through sexual contact, blood transfusion, and from mother to child during pregnancy. The Zika virus gained worldwide attention during outbreaks in 2015 and 2016, particularly in South and Central America. 

When a mosquito carrying the Zika virus bites a person, the virus enters their bloodstream and begins to multiply. From there, it can spread to various body tissues, including those found in the brain and neural tissues. This is why the virus is associated with neurological complications, particularly in developing fetuses. 
Zika has been reported in various parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions. The largest outbreaks of Zika virus occurred in South and Central America, particularly in Brazil, during 2015 and 2016. Other countries in the Americas, such as Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico, also experienced significant outbreaks during that time. Outside of the Americas, Zika has been reported in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.  

Risk of Zika

The greatest concern associated with Zika is its potential to cause birth defects in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy. The virus can lead to a condition called microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. Other neurological conditions, such as vision and hearing problems, can also occur. Zika can also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis.

Prevention of Zika

Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to reduce the risk of contracting Zika. This includes using insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying in places with air conditioning or window screens, and removing standing water where mosquitoes can breed. It’s also important to practice safe sex, especially if you or your partner have recently traveled to an area with Zika transmission. Pregnant women are advised to avoid traveling to Zika-affected regions. 

Treatment for Zika

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for Zika. Most individuals infected with Zika virus recover on their own within a week, with supportive care such as rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate symptoms. If you suspect you have Zika, it’s important to seek medical advice, particularly if you are pregnant or planning to conceive. Pregnant women with Zika may require specialized monitoring and care to ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and the unborn child.

Connect with your Rockdoc Travel Medicine Professional here to book a consultation to discuss your trip and obtain the prescription and vaccinations to travel with peace of mind. 

We have made every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the provided information, however, it is not feasible for us to update daily. Please book a virtual consultation with one of our Travel Medicine Professionals for current, personalized advice and answers to any questions you may have.

Symptoms of Zika

Common signs and symptoms for Zika include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

These symptoms typically last for a few days to a week and are usually not severe enough to require hospitalization

Most people infected with Zika virus do not experience any symptoms or may only have mild symptoms, however pregnant women and their unborn babies are at the highest risk for complications associated with Zika. 

Available travel vaccinations and medications

We offer the following travel vaccinations and medications:

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