Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Zika?
A: Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.
Q: How do people get infected with Zika?
A: Zika is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Also, a person with Zika can pass it to his or her sex partners. We encourage people who have traveled to or live in places with Zika to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.
Q: What health problems can result from getting Zika?
A: Many people infected with Zika will have no symptoms or mild symptoms that last several days to a week. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Current research suggests that Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS.
Once someone has been infected with Zika, it’s very likely they’ll be protected from future infections. There is no evidence that past Zika infection poses an increased risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.
Q: Should pregnant women travel to areas where Zika has been confirmed?
A: No. Pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika. Travelers who go to places with outbreaks of Zika can be infected with Zika, and Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
Q: If I am traveling to an area with Zika, should I be concerned about Zika?
A: Travelers who go to places with Zika can be infected with Zika, and CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to those areas. Many people will have mild or no symptoms. However, Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe birth defects. For this reason, pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika, and women trying to get pregnant should talk to their doctors before traveling or before their sex partners travel. It is especially important that women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy consistently use the most effective method of birth control that they are able to use. Those traveling to areas with Zika should take steps during and after they travel to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.
Q: What can people do to prevent Zika?
A: The best way to prevent Zika is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
Zika can be spread by a person infected with Zika to his or her sex partners. Condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex. Condoms include male and female condoms. To be effective, condoms should be used from start to finish, every time during vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys. Not having sex eliminates the risk of getting Zika from sex. Pregnant couples with a partner who traveled to or lives in an area with Zika should use condoms every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy.
Q: What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease?
A: The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms or will have mild symptoms, which can last for several days to a week.
Q: How is Zika diagnosed?
A: To diagnose Zika, your doctor will ask you about recent travel and symptoms you may have, and collect blood or urine to test for Zika or similar viruses.
Q: Can someone who returned from an area with Zika get tested for the virus?
A: Zika virus testing is performed at CDC and some state and territorial health departments. See your doctor if you have Zika symptoms and have recently been in an area with Zika. Your doctor may order tests to look for Zika or similar viruses like dengue and chikungunya.
Q: What should pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika do?
A: Pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika should talk to their doctor about their travel, even if they don’t feel sick. Pregnant women should see a doctor if they have any Zika symptoms during their trip or within 2 weeks after traveling. All pregnant women can protect themselves by avoiding travel to an area with Zika, preventing mosquito bites, and following recommended precautions against getting Zika through sex.
Q: I am not pregnant, but will my future pregnancies be at risk if I am infected with Zika virus?
A: Currently, there is no evidence that a woman who has recovered from Zika virus infection (the virus has cleared her body) will have Zika-related pregnancy complications in the future. Based on information about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika virus and has cleared the virus, he or she is likely to be protected from future Zika infections.
If you’re thinking about having a baby in the near future and you or your partner live in or traveled to an area with Zika, talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider. Men who have traveled to an areas with Zika or who have had Zika infection should wait at least 6 months after travel (or 6 months after symptoms started if they get sick) before trying to conceive with their partner. Women should wait at least 8 weeks after travel (or 8 weeks after symptoms started if they get sick) before trying to get pregnant.
Q: I was in a place with Zika recently. How long do I need to wait after returning to get pregnant?
A: Men who have traveled to a place with Zika should wait at least 6 months after travel (or 6 months after symptoms started if they get sick) before trying to conceive with their partner. Women should wait at least 8 weeks after travel (or 8 weeks after symptoms started if they get sick) before trying to get pregnant. The waiting period is longer for men because Zika stays in semen longer than in other body fluids.
Q: Is it safe for infants or children to travel to an area with Zika?
A: CDC’s travel guidance for areas with Zika applies to infants and children, as well as adults. CDC recommends that those who travel to areas with Zika protect themselves from mosquito bites during travel and for 3 weeks after returning from travel. For safe and effective ways to protect your child from mosquito bites, please visit our prevention page. Most children infected with Zika virus have no symptoms or have a mild illness, similar to adults with Zika virus infection.
Q: What should I do if I am sick, or a family member is sick, with Zika?
A: Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms lasting several days to a week. If you have symptoms of Zika (fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes) and you live in or recently traveled to an area with Zika, you should see your doctor or healthcare provider and tell him or her about your symptoms and recent travel. There is no specific medicine for Zika, but you can treat the symptoms. If you are diagnosed with Zika, protect those around you by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission of Zika. Because Zika can generally be found in blood during approximately the first week of infection and can be passed to another person through mosquito bites, help prevent others from getting sick by strictly following steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness.