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What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused by a virus spread to people through mosquito bites. Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. See Zika Travel Information for information on countries and territories with Zika.
Many people infected with Zika virus do not get sick. Among those who develop symptoms, sickness is usually mild, with symptoms that last for several days to a week. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis for a few weeks to several months. Current CDC research suggests that GBS is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent damage. For more information, see Zika and GBS.
Zika Virus in Pregnancy
A pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects. CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:
- Women who are pregnant:
- Should not travel to any area below 6,500 feet in an area with epidemic Zika.
- If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip. If your itinerary is limited entirely to areas above 6,500 feet, there is minimal risk of getting Zika from a mosquito.
- If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, either use condoms (or other barriers to prevent infection) or do not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during your pregnancy.
- Women who are trying to become pregnant:
- Before you or your partner travel to an area with epidemic Zika, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
- See CDC guidance for how long you should wait to get pregnant after travel to an area with epidemic Zika.
- You and your partner should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
- People who have traveled to an area with epidemic Zika and have a pregnant partner should use condoms or not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during the pregnancy.
What can travelers do to prevent Zika?
There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or para-menthane-diol (PMD). Always use as directed.
- When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective for use by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children aged older than 2 months. (OLE and PMD should not be used on children younger than 3 years.)
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
- Mosquito netting should be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
Many people infected with Zika virus do not feel sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it gets infected and can spread the virus when biting another person. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so that they do not spread Zika to mosquitoes, who can then spread Zika to other people.
People who have traveled to an area with epidemic Zika should use condoms for 8 weeks to protect their sex partners. Men who develop Zika symptoms or are diagnosed with Zika should use condoms for 6 months after symptoms start; women who develop Zika symptoms or are diagnosed with Zika should use condoms for 8 weeks after symptoms start. If the traveler’s partner is pregnant, the couple should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.
Travelers who are thinking about pregnancy should talk with their health care provider. Men who have traveled to an area with epidemic Zika should wait at least 8 weeks after travel before trying to conceive or at least 6 months after symptoms start if they develop symptoms of Zika. Women who have traveled to an area with epidemic Zika should wait at least 8 weeks after travel before trying to get pregnant, or at least 8 weeks after symptoms start if they develop symptoms.
For more information, see Zika and Sexual Transmission.
If you feel sick and think you may have Zika:
- Talk to your doctor if you develop a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Tell him or her about your travel.
- Take acetaminophen (paracetamol) to relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen until dengue can be ruled out.
- Get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
If you are pregnant:
Talk to a doctor or other health care provider after travel to an areas with a current outbreak of Zika, even if you don’t feel sick. Pregnant travelers returning from these areas, or who have had a possible sexual exposure, should be offered testing for Zika virus infection.
- If you develop a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes, talk to your doctor immediately and tell him or her about your travel or possible sexual exposure.
- If you do not have symptoms, testing should be offered if you see a health care provider, up to 12 weeks after you return from travel or your last possible sexual exposure.
All pregnant women should be assessed for Zika virus exposure at each prenatal care visit. Possible exposures to Zika virus that warrant testing include:
- Travel to or residence in an area with a current Zika outbreak.
- Sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a partner who has traveled to or resides in an area with a current Zika outbreak.
The type of testing recommended varies according to when a woman’s last possible exposure occurred or when her symptoms began. For more information, please visit the clinical guidance for healthcare providers caring for pregnant women.
Guidelines for infants whose mothers have possible Zika virus infection are also available.
- Page created: June 09, 2015
- Page last updated: August 04, 2016
- Page last reviewed: August 04, 2016
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