Zika Virus Complications

Zika Virus Complications

The Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne disease, transmitted by bites from some species of Aedes mosquito, particularly Aedes aegypti. These mosquitoes bite in the day, particularly around dawn and dusk.

There are often no symptoms, but in around one fifth of cases the infection can cause an illness with fever, rash, conjunctivitis, severe headache and muscle pain. Illness from Zika is usually not severe and does not normally require hospitalisation.


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There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. The best form of prevention is avoiding being bitten mosquitoes if you are in a country affected by Zika virus.


The symptoms of infection in a person are usually mild and can last for a few days and up to a week. Only around a fifth of people infected develop symptoms. When symptoms are present they can include:

  • fever
  • skin rashes
  • conjunctivitis (eye infection)
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain.


Zika virus infection is diagnosed through:

  • medical history, including a travel history to look for any exposure in a country with active Zika transmission in the two weeks prior to illness
  • physical examination, to look for evidence of the infection
  • blood and other laboratory tests.

Spread of infection

Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is the same mosquito that transmits the viral infections dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The time taken to develop symptoms after exposure is not known precisely, but is probably a few days to a week, and 14 days at most. This means it may take up to two weeks to become ill after a person has been exposed in a country with active Zika transmission.


There is currently no vaccine available for Zika virus to protect against infection. All travellers to currently or potentially affected areas should take the following measures to prevent mosquito bites. These precautions are necessary in the daytime as well as night time:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin. Always use as directed. Insect repellents containing DEET and picaridin are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents.
  • Use bed nets as necessary.
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

In summary, as a precaution, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant are advised to consider postponing travel to any area with active Zika virus transmission.

Which countries are affected?

Zika virus has spread rapidly to a number of countries, particularly in the Americas. People planning travel are advised to check whether the country they are planning to visit has active Zika virus transmission.