CHAM Connections

Back to All Blog Posts

Four Important Facts About the Zika Virus

We’ve all heard about Zika, but there’s still much to learn. Zika is a virus related to dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile viruses. They all infect humans and are carried by mosquitos. Zika virus is new to the Americas with reports of disease first seen in 2015. Previously, it was only seen in patients in parts of Asia and Africa. There are no current medicines that target the Zika virus and although vaccine trials are underway, widespread availability of a vaccine is unlikely to be available for several years.

If you’re planning to travel, talk to your doctor at Montefiore beforeyou leave—especially if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. A travel clinic appointment may also be advised for some patients; you can make one by calling these numbers:

  • Pediatrics: 1-718-741-2450
  • Internal Medicine: 1-866-633-8255

As is typically the case, knowledge goes a long way toward stemming common concerns. With this in mind, below are a few quick facts that can help you learn more about Zika.

1.How is Zika transmitted?
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main carrier of this virus. It lives and breeds among humans in standing water such as in tires or other garbage.Unlike other mosquitos, it feeds throughout the day rather than only at dusk. Thus, the chance of being bitten in an area where the mosquitos live is very high. Zika cases are currently reported in many countries throughout the Western Hemisphere and itwill likely spreadto all countries in the Americas except for Chile and Canada (which do not have the Aedes aegypti mosquito). Although all cases are currently related to travel, Zika may soon be found in the very southern United States where cases of dengue have also been reported.

2. What are the symptoms of Zika?
We think that about 80% of patients who get Zika virus will not get sick or have any symptoms at all, including pregnant women. If symptoms do occur, they are generally mild and involve a fever, a red bumpy, flat and sometimes itchy rash, pain in the joints, and pink eye(s). Other symptoms that may be seen include: vomiting, muscle pain, pain behind the eyes, and severe headache.

3. Why are pregnant women and their partners at risk?
There is increasing evidence that Zika virus may infect the babies of mothers who were pregnant at the time that they were ill with the virus. This may include mothers who were sick or who did not know that they had the illness. In Brazil, some babies who have been born with an abnormally small head, or microcephaly, have been linked to Zika virus infection. We do not know all of the possible complications due to Zika virus so pregnant women are not currently advised to travel to Zika areas at this time.

5. What should I do?
There are currently no medications or vaccines to prevent or treat Zika virus infections. Patients who are traveling are advised to stay inside air conditioned rooms with screens, wear clothing that covers up exposed skin, and use an EPA-registered insect repellant on all children above 2 months.

If you think that you have been exposed to Zika, talk to your provider. Other infections or entities may need to be considered. Zika testing is currently being handled at Montefiore in conjunction with department of health laboratories. Per the current recommendations, testing is currently being offered to patients who have travelled to a place where Zika virus was present and in people who are:

  1. Pregnant
  2. Have had symptoms within four weeks of travel.

For additional information, read What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus and visit the Centers for Disease Control Website for information on countries currently reporting active transmission.

Fauci AS and Morens DM Zika Virus in the Americas – Yet Another Arbovirus Threat. NEJM 2016; 374:601-604.
Mlakar J, Korva M, Tul N et al. Zika virus associated with microcephaly. NEJM DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1600651
Schuler-Faccini L, Ribeiro EM, Feitosa IM, et al. Possible association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly — Brazil, 2015. MMWR 2016;65:59-62.


* - Only comments approved by post author will be displayed here.
Follow Us