Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

The Zika virus has been the subject of extensive media coverage in recent months due to outbreaks throughout Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Although most people infected with the Zika virus experience only mild symptoms and recover completely, infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in which a newborn's head is smaller than average. The significant risk to women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant contributed to the World Health Organization declaring the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Health Advisory on Zika virus infections for those returning to the United States from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Transmission:

Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the same species that spreads the dengue and chikungunya viruses. Zika virus also can be transmitted during sex with an infected male, or by an infected pregnant woman to her fetus.

Zika Virus in New York City:

There have been 233 reported Zika cases in New York City through June 29, including 24 cases in which the infected person was pregnant at the time of diagnosis. All reported cases were contracted in other countries.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of infection include fever, muscle aches, headaches, rash, fatigue, joint main, conjunctivitis, dizziness, and shortness of breath. It is important to get tested for Zika if you develop any of these symptoms after returning from a Zika-affected location or after having sexual contact with a male who recently returned from a Zika-affected location.

Detection and Prevention:

Taking proper precautions can reduce your risk of contracting and spreading the Zika virus:

  • If you must travel to a Zika-affected area, review the CDC's information on preventing mosquito bites.
  • Travelers returning to the U.S. from Zika-affected places should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks, even if they do not feel sick, to avoid spreading Zika to local mosquitoes.
  • Get rid of standing water that collects in and around your facility, as standing water attracts mosquitoes.

Resources:

The CDC and the City of New York offer extensive information and updates about the Zika outbreak. The NYC Health Department has created downloadable materials that can be printed and displayed at your location to educate employees and clients about this health issue. These materials include:

(originally published July 2016)