What you need to know

Zika has been making international headlines since early 2016, and anxiety surrounding the mosquito-borne virus continues to grow. To help keep you up-to-date, we've put together some general information about the Zika virus, as well as prevention tips and links to helpful resources.

While most cases of Zika in the US have been linked to people who traveled to countries where the virus was active, there is a possibility of locally acquired cases within the southeast, including the Carolinas. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women, and women who wish to become pregnant, to avoid all areas where the Zika virus is present, including:

  • Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • South America
  • Cape Verde
  • Pacific Islands
  • Singapore
  • Florida (Wynwood neighborhood and Miami Beach)

Symptoms

Many people with Zika virus won’t even know they have it. Common symptoms appear within two weeks of traveling to an area with Zika and can include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Red eyes

However, 80 percent of people do not display any symptoms. Zika normally doesn’t cause severe illness or death, but researchers are still learning about its long-term effects, including birth defects in children born to mothers who have the virus.

Prevention

Because there isn’t a vaccine or drug to prevent or treat Zika virus, it’s best to avoid mosquito bites altogether if you are traveling to at-risk countries. If you must travel, take the following precautions:

  • Use mosquito repellent with DEET, picardin or 2-undecanone
  • Reapply mosquito repellent every 8 hours
  • If using sunscreen, apply that first, then mosquito repellent
  • Avoid stagnant water (large puddles, pools, bird baths, flower pots) and trash containers where mosquitos breed
  • Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outside or in a room with open windows
  • Choose lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants since mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing

Because Zika also can be passed on through sex with someone with the virus, always use protection during sexual activity. Pregnant women should avoid sexual contact or use protection for the duration of the pregnancy if their partner traveled to a country with Zika virus.

For more information:

The following information is available for those who want to learn more about Zika virus:

Carolinas Poison Center, which is administered by Carolinas HealthCare System, has set up a public health helpline for North Carolina residents with specific questions or concerns about Zika at 1-844-440-6532.

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