Patient information: Zika virus infection (The Basics)

What is Zika? — Zika is a type of virus. Infection with Zika can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites.

Zika has occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since May of 2015, there has been an outbreak happening in Central and South America. The virus has also been found in Puerto Rico.

There have been cases of Zika in the United States, too. So far, this has only happened to people who have traveled to countries where the virus is found.

What are the symptoms of Zika? — Many people infected with Zika have no symptoms, or only mild symptoms. If there are symptoms, they usually happen 2 to 12 days after being bitten by a mosquito that has the virus.

Symptoms might include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Pain in the joints, especially in the hands and feet
  • Red eyes
  • Headache

In some areas where there is Zika virus, there have also been more cases of a disease called “GuillainBarré syndrome.” This is a condition that causes muscle weakness. Experts don’t yet know if it is related to Zika.

Should I see a doctor? — Yes. If you live in (or recently visited) a country where Zika is found, see a doctor if you have symptoms.

Is there a test for Zika? — Yes. If your doctor thinks you might have Zika, he or she will order a blood test to look for the virus. He or she might also do tests for other diseases that have similar symptoms.

How is Zika treated? — There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection. If your symptoms bother you, you should rest and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) to relieve fever and aches.

Do not take aspirin or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve), unless your doctor says it’s okay. That’s because they can cause bleeding in people who have a disease that is similar to Zika, called “dengue fever.” Blood tests can tell your doctor if you have dengue fever, Zika, or something else.

Never give aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin to children younger than 18 years. In children, aspirin can cause a serious problem called Reye syndrome.

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