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VA Maryland Health Care System


Be Prepared for Summer Travel

Zika Virus: What you need to know

What is the Zika virus? Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by Zika virus that
is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.

  • Zika virus is related to the viruses which cause West Nile Disease and Dengue fever. How does the Zika virus spread? Zika infection is a disease typically spread through
    a bite from the Aedes mosquito. Although rare, cases of the virus spreading through blood transfusion and sexual contact have also been reported.
  • Women who were pregnant during the acute infection may have an increased risk of having babies with abnormalities of the brain and eyes. What are the symptoms? The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Up to 80% of people infected with Zika virus show no symptoms.
  • Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. Care is supportive with treatment of pain, fever and itching. How do you screen for this virus? All patients with a fever, rash, arthralgia or conjunctivitis with a recent (within 2 weeks) travel history to a destination with reported Zika transmission.
  • Patients with a travel history and symptoms may need testing, which is coordinated through the local health department.
  • Pregnant women who have no clinical symptoms but traveled to an affected area within the past 2 weeks should follow up with their obstetrician to have a fetal ultrasound.
  • Women and men who reside or travel in areas of active Zika virus transmission
    should talk with their health care providers about attempting conception.

This is a developing situation and guidelines may change. We are working very closely with State and federal officials and recommend that you regularly check the CDC Zika Virus website at for the most recent updates.

For up to date information about high risk areas,
please refer to the CDC website:

MosquitoThere is no vaccine to prevent the disease and no specific treatment for the virus. Symptoms are treated and rest is encouraged. Birth defects have been linked to the babies of some women who are exposed to the Zika virus during their pregnancy. If you are pregnant, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Avoid traveling to places that have reported Zika transmission. Women who are trying to get pregnant and their male partner should talk to their health care provider before traveling to areas with Zika.
  • Take steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside. Use EPA registered insect repellents.
  • Take steps to prevent getting Zika through sex. If a pregnant woman is concerned that her male partner may have Zika infection, she should talk with her health care provider.
  • Talk to your health care provider upon your return, even if you don’t feel sick. It is especially important that pregnant women see their provider if they develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during their trip or within 2 weeks after traveling to an area where Zika has been reported.
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