Zika Health Advisory

Posted: August 22, 2016 at 9:00 am, Last Updated: August 22, 2016 at 8:50 am

Zika is a virus transmitted primarily by specific mosquitoes. In August 2016, the Florida Department of Health identified areas in South Florida where where Zika is being spread by mosquitoes. Transmission was  identified in the Americas, including Puerto Rico, in February 2016. Cases of sexual transmission have been reported.

About one in five people infected with Zika virus will have symptoms. Symptoms can include acute (sudden) onset of fever, rash, joint pain, or pink eye. Symptoms are usually mild and may last up to a week.

The virus is strongly suspected of causing microcephaly, a rare and potentially deadly birth defect, as well as an adult neurological disorder called Guillain Barré Syndrome. Microcephaly is characterized by babies born with incomplete brain development and unusually small head sizes, while Guillain Barré Syndrome can cause paralysis, muscle weakness and other debilitating symptoms in adults.

If you are planning travel, or have returned from travel to an area where Zika can be transmitted, talk with your healthcare provider.

Pregnant travelers to areas with Zika virus transmission should postpone their travel, if possible.

Travelers should learn about the importance of mosquito bite prevention. Click here for information from the Centers for Disease Control.

All students, but especially students returning from Zika affected areas, are encouraged to use condoms for all sexual contact.

Recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health

Before Travel

Before travel – particularly to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America or South America – check to see if Zika virus is impacting the destination area. This is especially important for pregnant women (in any trimester) or women who are trying to become pregnant. They are advised to consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading.

During travel, all travelers, particularly pregnant women, should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. These include taking the following actions:

  • Choose an EPA-registered insect repellent and use according to the product label. Use the repellent day and night because the mosquito species that transmit Zika virus are daytime biters that will also enter buildings and bite at night.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and hats.
  • Sleep indoors in rooms with screened windows or air-conditioning, or use a bed net if you sleep in a room that is exposed to the outdoors.

After Travel

After travel, if you develop signs or symptoms consistent with Zika (e.g., fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes), contact your healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. If a clinician suspects Zika infection, s/he should report this to the local health department.

If you have fever or pain, take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve your symptoms. Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.

People with Zika should also stay indoors or wear protective clothing and mosquito repellent for the first week after they begin to feel sick. These measures will help prevent local mosquitoes from biting them and potentially spreading the virus to others in the community.

Pregnant women who have a male partner who lives in or has returned from an area where Zika virus is spreading should abstain from sex or use condoms consistently and correctly for the duration of the pregnancy.

Additional Information

Centers for Disease Control

World Health Organization Fact Sheet (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish)