Mosquito-Borne Illness: Zika

Zika virus, also known as Zika fever is a mosquito-borne disease that is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people who contract Zika are asymptomatic – only about one in five people with Zika show symptoms. You can avoid mosquito-borne Zika virus by wearing mosquito repellent containing DEET, especially when traveling to regions experience active Zika transmission. Hawaii does not currently have any locally transmitted Zika, but does occasionally experience imported cases. People should implement best practices, such as removing any standing water that can attract mosquitoes around their homes and communities. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take extra precautions and avoid travel to regions with active Zika spread.

How Zika Virus is Transmitted

The main mode of transmission for the Zika virus is from mosquito to human – when an infected mosquito bites a human. Zika virus can also be transmitted by sexual contact with an infected male. A pregnant mother can also pass the Zika virus to her baby. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than normal.

Aedes Mosquitoes

Aedes (Stegomyia) mosquitoes carry and transmit Zika. In Hawaii, the Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito or Forest Day Mosquito) are prevalent. Other Aedes members can transmit Zika, but are not found in Hawaii. These mosquitoes are most active in the early morning after sunrise and the late afternoon before sunset.

Signs and Symptoms of Zika Virus or Zika Fever

Symptoms of Zika tend to be very mild, but some may experience a fever, joint pain, red eyes, overall aches, and what is known as a maculopapular rash. This type of rash appears red in color, and shows up as flat, discolored spots. Zika fever looks similar to the flu, although the appearance of the rash will distinguish Zika from influenza. Many people who get infected with the Zika virus have mild symptoms and they don’t even know that they have been infected.

Treatment for Zika

At this time, there are no vaccines or medications that are available to treat the Zika virus. People who traveled to an area with active Zika spread and experience symptoms within two weeks of their visit, should visit their doctor immediately to be tested. If you are diagnosed with Zika, you will need plenty of rest and to drink plenty of fluids. You should be very careful and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites as your blood is infectious. Use over the counter products such as acetaminophen to reduce your fever and pain. You should not use any NSAID medications until your doctor has ruled out dengue fever, which looks similar to Zika, because if an increased risk of bleeding.

Precautions for Pregnant Women

Women who are pregnant need to be very careful and take extra precautions against contracting the Zika virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus can cause serious harm to an unborn fetus when the mother contracts the virus. The fetus can suffer from microcephaly – a serious birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than normal – and other severe brain defects if the mother contracts Zika during her pregnancy. All pregnant women should avoid getting bitten by mosquitos as much as possible. Pregnant women and women thinking about becoming pregnant should not travel to regions experiencing active Zika spread. If travel cannot be avoided, pregnant women should consult a physician before making any travel plans.