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Updated: July 8, 2016

What are the most common signs of Zika virus?

Most people who get the Zika virus have no symptoms, which means they won’t even know they’ve became infected. Symptoms -- when present -- are generally mild, including fever, rash, joint aches and red eyes. In severe cases, weakness may occur, which should be evaluated by a provider.

How is Zika virus spread?

Zika virus is mainly spread from the bite of an infected mosquito to a person. The virus also can be spread through sexual contact with an infected male partner.

A woman who is pregnant, becomes pregnant while in an area where Zika is found or has a significant other who has traveled to an area where Zika is found can transmit the infection to her baby. This can result in microcephaly and other birth defects.

How dangerous is the virus?

Zika is a mild to asymptomatic disease in adults and children. The major concerns are for microcephaly, a birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than expected, or other birth defects. Death from Zika virus is rare.

How is Zika virus treated? Is there a vaccine?

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika virus. Symptoms may be treated with fluids, rest and acetaminophen. Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen, should be avoided.

Is it safe to travel to other countries? What if I am pregnant?

The CDC has issued travel notices to regions where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Travelers to these areas should take extra precautions against mosquito bites.

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant within three months should avoid travel to Zika-affected regions. If you must travel to these areas, strict precautions should be followed to avoid a mosquito bite. These include wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, using U.S. EPA-registered insect repellants and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

If you are pregnant and have recently returned from a Zika-affected area, please discuss your risk of Zika virus with your healthcare provider.

I’m going to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. How do I protect myself from Zika virus?

If you’re planning to attend the Olympics, take extra precautions to stay safe.  

What type of precautions can people take to avoid the virus?

Prevention occurs by decreasing exposure to and avoiding mosquito bites.

  • Avoid mosquitoes when possible.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent. These repellents are safe for pregnant women and children. Be sure to check the product label for any warnings and follow the instructions closely.
  • Control mosquito populations in and around your home. Use air conditioning, window screens or insecticide-treated mosquito netting to keep mosquitoes out of the home. Reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home by emptying or routinely changing standing water from containers, such as flowerpots, pet dishes and bird baths.

How else can I protect myself?

Avoid sexual contact with a partner who has traveled to a Zika-affected area, or use a condom correctly each time you have sex. For more information, visit the PA Department of Health’s Zika Virus Prevention page.

Are there cases of Zika virus in Pennsylvania?

There have been cases in travelers who have returned from areas where Zika virus is common. Local transmission, where the virus is acquired from local mosquitos, has not been identified in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the continental United States.

Can my pet get Zika virus?

There are no reports of pets or other animals getting sick from Zika virus.

What should I do if I think I have Zika?

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of Zika virus and have been to an affected area in the past two weeks or had sexual contact in the last 6 months with a male partner who has traveled to an area where Zika transmission is known to occur.

If you are pregnant and traveled to a Zika-affected area within the last 12 weeks, your healthcare provider may test you for Zika virus even if you have not experienced symptoms.

Who should be tested? Where is testing offered?

Routine testing is not recommended for people who are asymptomatic or have mild disease. Testing is only recommended for severe disease or for pregnant women whose fetus is found to have abnormalities in utero.

Blood tests can be obtained from Lancaster General Health. Blood is sent for testing through the PA Department of Health, then to the CDC Arboviral Lab in Colorado. Results generally are available in about six weeks.

What is Pennsylvania doing to protect its residents?

The state Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection have a Zika Response Plan to prepare for Zika virus testing, enhance surveillance and control of mosquito populations that can spread Zika, and enhance surveillance for Zika cases in Pennsylvania.

How is Lancaster General Health working to combat the virus here in Lancaster County?

Lancaster County is working to evaluate the potential for infected mosquitoes. LG Health will continue to work closely with the county as the needs and risks are more fully understood. 

  • Read "Zika and pregnancy: 4 tips women should follow," by Serena S. Wu, M.D., of Maternal Fetal Medicine.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health provides updated information on Zika virus, including the current number of confirmed cases in Pennsylvania.
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