Zika virus infects people through the bite of a mosquito and can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Zika infection can cause serious birth defects in pregnant women, and the virus can be transmitted sexually. Travel-related cases of Zika virus infection have been confirmed in Mississippi. No locally-transmitted cases have been reported in the state.
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Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Eighty percent of cases display either no symptoms, or mild symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
Where Zika is found
Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa and Asia, and has begun to be reported in the Caribbean and areas of Mexico, Central America, South America. Zika virus has infected many travelers returning to the U.S. from these areas. No cases of local transmission by mosquitoes in the U.S. have been reported.
Because Zika virus infection has been confirmed as a cause of birth defects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert for pregnant women who are planning to travel to Zika-affected countries. Pregnant women should not travel to Zika-affected countries. All women should take strong protective measures against mosquitoes when traveling in areas where Zika is being actively transmitted.
Because Zika can be transmitted sexually, if you are pregnant and your male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area where Zika virus is actively being transmitted, you should abstain from sex or use condoms properly every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy. Men can transmit the virus sexually to both women and men.
Prevention for travelers
While there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, travelers can protect themselves by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus has been reported:
- Use insect repellent.
- Wear long sleeves and pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Before you travel, check for countries where Zika virus is actively being transmitted.
Advice for returning travelers
If you are returning home after traveling in an area where Zika virus is being actively transmitted, protect others by following these steps:
- Take special precautions to avoid mosquito bites for three weeks after you return home in order to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus to local mosquitoes. This includes using mosquito repellent whenever you are outdoors, avoiding areas with mosquitoes, dressing in long pants and sleeves, and limiting your time outdoors.
- Do not personally work in your yard to remove standing water for three weeks after you return home. This has a greater chance of exposing you to local mosquitoes. After three weeks, removing standing water around your home is recommended to reduce mosquito breeding.
- Men should not have sex of any type with a pregnant women for the duration of the pregnancy, or use condoms consistently until the end of pregnancy.
- Men should use condoms every time they have any type of sex for at least eight weeks after they return home.
- Pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika should talk to a healthcare provider about their travel even if they don’t feel sick. If you develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during your trip, or within two weeks after returning home, see your doctor as soon as possible.