Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species of mosquito. Mosquito transmission of the Zika virus is found in nearly 50 countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Africa. While there have been no mosquito transmitted Zika cases in the continental United States, the mosquito species that can carry the virus are believed to be present in Missouri. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and they can also bite at night. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will actually have symptoms. The infectious period is usually seven days. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Exposure to Zika virus includes unprotected sexual contact with a male partner who resides in or has recently traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission. This is of particular concern for pregnant women who may have sexual contact with an infected partner. There have been continuing reports of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus should consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex during the infectious period.
There is currently no evidence that Zika virus infection poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.
To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. Here’s how:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- If you have a baby or child:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.