Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness primarily spread through mosquito bites. It generally causes a mild disease, with symptoms appearing in about 1 in 5 cases. Symptoms begin 3-14 days after getting infected, and include fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis, which last for 2 – 7 days. Although anyone may get infected with the Zika virus, the infection is most concerning in women who are pregnant, as there is a risk of life-threatening complications in the fetus.
Zika virus continues to spread in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. In addition the Florida Department of Health has recently identified an area in one neighborhood of Miami where Zika is being spread by mosquitos. The CDC website regularly updates areas where Zika has been reported. Most cases have been reported in persons who have recently traveled to areas with ongoing transmission or have had sexual contact with someone with such a travel history, even if they are not showing symptoms of the illness. In Rhode Island, Zika virus is considered to be travel-acquired as the species of mosquito that carries Zika virus is not established in Rhode Island.
The CDC advises pregnant women to postpone travel to affected areas at this time. Sexual transmission of many infections, including Zika, is reduced by consistent and correct use of latex condoms.
Mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus also spread other viral diseases such as dengue and chikungunya. Travelers are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites by following simple measures. There is no vaccine to prevent or medications to treat Zika.
As symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, please contact Brown Health Services at 401-863-3953 if you develop symptoms described above, and have recently traveled to countries where Zika has been reported. For patients with symptoms suspicious of Zika virus disease, and positive travel history, Health Services will follow testing recommendations from the RI Department of Health (RI-DOH). We remain in communication with RI-DOH and Infectious Disease experts in the community. For more information regarding Zika virus you can also refer to the CDC website FAQ.