“The best prevention against Zika is protection against mosquito
bites and avoiding travel in countries on the CDC list,” says Michelle
Lusk, CVMC Assistant Vice President.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued
travel guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to
avoid visiting places where the Zika virus is currently circulating. With
Mexico and the Caribbean on the list during a time of year when many are
planning warm climate get-a-ways, we want the community to be familiar
with Zika virus prevention and facts.
Zika carries significant risk to pregnant women and women trying to become
pregnant as it appears to be linked to a very serious and specific birth
defect called microcephaly. Officials are advising pregnant women and
women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected
areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called
microcephaly. The following Frequently Asked Questions was prepared by
Infection Prevention. For additional information, please contact Infection Prevention at 828.326.3610
What is Zika virus disease (Zika)? Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily
through the bite of an infected
Aedes species mosquito. 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. People usually don’t
get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus? People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema)
and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days. However,
there have been cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome reported in patients
following suspected Zika virus infection. In pregnant women, there have
been reports of birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes.
How is Zika transmitted? Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected
Aedesmosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread Chikungunya and dengue. These
mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and they can also bite at night.
It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy
or around the time of birth. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is studying
how some mothers can pass the virus to their babies.
How is Zika virus treated? There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. Treatment
is based on symptoms.
How can you prevent the Zika virus? The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites. Prevention includes wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, using EPA registered
insect repellents, and staying in places with air conditioning or that
use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Is this a new virus? No. Outbreaks of Zika previously have been reported in tropical Africa,
Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika virus likely will continue
to spread to new areas. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization
(PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection
in Brazil. Since that time, local transmission has been reported in many
What countries are experiencing outbreaks of Zika virus? Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries and the CDC/WHO update
the map of affected areas daily. Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have
occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert
regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. For the
most up-to-date map of affected areas:
Should we be concerned about Zika in the United States? The U.S. mainland does have
Aedes species mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus.
U.S. travelers who visit a country where Zika is found could become infected
if bitten by a mosquito. With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika
virus disease cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United
States will likely increase. These imported cases may result in local
spread of the virus in some areas of the United States. CDC has been monitoring
these epidemics and is prepared to address cases imported into the United
States and cases transmitted locally.
What if I plan to travel? Travel guidance is given by the CDC & updated daily, depending on country
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information. For all travelers, take precautions to prevent themselves from mosquito bites.
What if we have a patient with suspected Zika Disease?
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become symptomatic. Characteristic
clinical findings are acute onset of fever with maculopapular rash, arthralgia,
or conjunctivitis. Other commonly reported symptoms include myalgia and
headache. Clinical illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several
days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and
case fatality is low.
- For non-pregnant patients, treatment is based on symptom management. Isolation
is not necessary.
- For pregnant patients, treatment is based on current CDC guidance and at
this point, includes serial ultrasounds to monitor fetal development.
What lab testing is available?
Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus
isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as
the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West
Nile and yellow fever. These tests are performed by the NC State Lab,
but require state permission for testing.
Are we screening patients for travel history?
Travel history should be assessed in routine patient care. Specifically
for Zika, Maternity Services are screening pregnant women for travel history
and Zika Disease symptoms.
CVMC is currently working diligently to communicate with area OB/GYN practices
and keep staff updated with information about community partner programs
and screening information. There are currently no cases of Zika virus
in North Carolina. For more information, contact Infection Prevention
at 828.326.3610 or check online at