Zika Virus

The Zika Virus is an illness with generally mild symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), which can last several days to a week. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, but symptoms are rarely severe and hospitalization is uncommon. Zika is spread by mosquitos and therefore most prevalent in tropical environments. Travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

Zika is linked to a specific birth defect called microcephaly. Because of this link, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed specific guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to avoid visiting places where the virus is currently circulating. The CDC has also issued information about the risk of transmitting Zika through sexual contact. Note that some locations may offer a reduced chance of exposure to Zika due to high elevation.

The CDC’s Zika destinations page is the most up-to-date resource for determining risks of exposure based on location. Guidance has also been provided for travelers to southern Florida.

If you are concerned about a risk of exposure to Zika related to upcoming travel, contact a specialist in travel medicine, such as Northwestern Medicine’s Travel Medicine Clinic or Glenbrook Hospital’s Travel Clinic. Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should consult with their OB/GYN.

Last revised: 4/11/2017