Zika Virus

pregnant woman applying tick repellent

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). Based on what we know now, the mosquitoes that are in Vermont are not the species that transmit Zika virus.

A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Also, the virus can be passed during sex from a person who has Zika to their sex partners. 

Zika Travel Poster

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The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms that may last for several days up to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Once a person has been infected with Zika virus, they are likely protected from future infections. 

While Zika is generally a mild illness in most adults, Zika virus has caused microcephaly, a birth defect of the brain, and other serious complication in babies of mothers who had the virus while pregnant. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends special precautions for travelers and pregnant women. Women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, should not travel to areas where Zika transmission is occurring. This includes multiple countries and territories throughout the world as well as defined areas with local transmission in the continental United States All travelers to an area with Zika transmission should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. See the information and guidance below for what you need to know about Zika. If you have concerns or questions about your health and Zika virus, contact your health care provider.

Travelers to Areas with Zika

Travelers who go to areas with outbreaks of Zika can be infected with Zika virus and should protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin. Look for products containing DEET, picardin, IR3535, OLE, or PMD.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible.
  • Use permethrin-treated gear and clothing.
  • Stay in air conditioned or screened-in rooms.

Some travelers become infected while traveling but do not get sick until they return home. Be aware of any illness or symptoms during your trip or after you return home. See your health care provider if you get sick and tell where you have traveled and when you were there. Your doctor may order blood or urine tests to look for Zika or other similar viral diseases like dengue or chikungunya.

Protect your sex partners after travel. Use condoms for at least eight weeks, or at least six months for men who get sick. If your partner is pregnant, use condoms throughout pregnancy or do not have sex.

Information for Pregnant Women

All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure during each prenatal care visit. Pregnant women should not travel to areas where Zika is being spread by mosquitoes If travel cannot be avoided, pregnant women and their partners should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and use condoms or other barriers to prevent infection every time they have sex during the pregnancy.

Pregnant women with possible Zika exposure and signs or symptoms of Zika should be tested for Zika. Pregnant women who traveled to or had unprotected sex with a partner who traveled to areas where Zika is being spread by mosquitos should talk to their health care provider and should be tested for Zika.

Information for Health Care Professionals

Up to date clinical guidance and resources for health care professionals are available on the CDC website Health care providers should contact the Vermont Department of Health Epidemiology Program by calling (800) 640-4374 or (802) 863-7240 to report a suspect case and for guidance and approval prior to collecting and submitting blood and urine specimens.

Testing for Zika is available through the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory.

  • Test all pregnant women, regardless of symptoms, who may have been exposed to Zika either sexually (i.e. had sexual contact without a barrier method with a person who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika) or through travel to an area with Zika.
  • Test any patients for Zika if they develop symptoms of Zika and report travel to an area with Zika or potential sexual exposure to a partner who lives in or traveled to an area with Zika.
  • Submit specimens with the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory Clinical Test Request Form

All patients suspected of having Zika should be counseled on protective steps for preventing Zika transmission through sex To be effective, condoms must be used correctly from start to finish, every time during sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys.

Medicine such as acetaminophen may be taken to reduce fever and pain, but patients should not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding.

For questions about Zika virus in Vermont, call the Vermont Department of Health Epidemiology Program at 800-640-4374 or 802-863-7240.

Additional Resources