Pregnant women need to take precautions against contracting the Zika virus during pregnancy

What is Zika virus?
Zika is a virus that is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

How is Zika virus transmitted?
The most common way that Zika virus is transmitted is through mosquito bites. Zika virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. It is also possible for the virus to be spread through sexual contact and blood.

Who is at risk for infection with Zika virus?
Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found is at risk for infection. However, pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant are of special concern because Zika can cause birth defects.


Where is Zika virus spreading?
Zika is affecting parts of Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and other places listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, CDC will update its travel notice as information becomes available.

Are mosquitoes spreading Zika virus in the United States?
Cases of locally acquired mosquito transmitted Zika virus have been reported in Florida and Texas. However, Zika virus is not spreading in Westchester County and the type of mosquito linked to the current outbreak, the Aedes aegypti, has not been found here. A different mosquito that may carry Zika is sometimes found in Westchester and the surrounding area during the summer months. This mosquito is called Aedes albopictus and health experts are still learning whether it is likely to spread Zika to people.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?
About one in five people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.

Symptoms usually begin two to 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). See your healthcare provider if you develop these symptoms and have visited an area where Zika is found. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

What should I do if I have Zika?
Treat the symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce fever and pain
  • Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in a person's blood. The virus can be passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

Is there a vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika?
No. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.

How can I protect myself and my family from Zika?
Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites. For mosquito bite prevention tips, you can download our Westchester Cares Bug Off brochure. When traveling to countries where Zika virus (see map) or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed and wash treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors.
  • Apply sunscreen first, then repellant
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
  • Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children aged >2 months.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
  • Use a mosquito bed-net if you cannot keep mosquitoes out of your residence. Cover cribs, strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting too.
  • Remove common backyard mosquito sources such as old tires, buckets, wheelbarrows, toys and other items from your property that can collect water.
  • Cover outdoor trash containers to keep rainwater from accumulating inside.
  • Keep your gutters clear.
  • Keep your property clear of objects or debris that can hold even tiny amounts of water.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are left outdoors.
  • Drain water in birdbaths, plant pots and drip trays twice a week.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects on their covers.

Is it safe to use an insect repellent if I am pregnant or nursing?
Yes. Using an insect repellent is safe and effective. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding can and should choose an EPA-registered insect repellent and use it according to the product label.

I am pregnant. How will Zika virus affect me or my unborn baby?
Zika can cause microcephaly and result in other poor outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant. For this reason, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:

What are the recommendations for pregnant couples who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas?

  • Pregnant women with sex partners (male or female) who live in or who have traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission should consistently and correctly use barrier methods against infection during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. 
  • Pregnant women should discuss with their health care provider their own and their partner's history of having been in areas with active Zika virus transmission and history of illness consistent with Zika virus disease.

What are the recommendations for couples who are not pregnant and are not planning to become pregnant who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas?

  • Men and women who want to reduce the risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus should use barrier methods against infection consistently and correctly during sex or abstain from sex when one partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission.
  • Couples should speak with their health care provider about the duration of consistent use of a barrier method or abstinence from sex.

Is it possible to get Zika from a blood transfusion?

It is possible for Zika to spread from one person to another through a blood transfusion. To help prevent this from happening:

  • Everyone who travelled to a Zika-affected region should wait four weeks after returning home before they donate blood.
  • Everyone who travelled to a Zika-affected region and already donated blood within four weeks of returning home should:
    • Tell the facility where they gave blood if they are diagnosed with or develop symptoms similar to Zika virus disease within two weeks following donation.
    • If they have symptoms, avoid donating more blood until the symptoms have been gone for at least four weeks.
  • Everyone who had sex with (vaginal, anal and/or oral) a partner who has or may have Zika, should wait four weeks after the last sexual contact before they donate blood. People who could spread Zika sexually include:
    • Those diagnosed with Zika virus infection.
    • Those who were in a Zika-affected area within three months of the latest sexual contact.

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