Zika Virus: What You Need To Know

Epidemiology and Transmission:

The Zika Virus has been a cause for concern in recent months. The virus is spread by mosquitoes and can affect humans. Bites from an infected Aedes mosquito has been implicated in the spread of the virus. This is the same mosquito that also transmits Dengue, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever.

Infection with the Zika virus usually causes a mild self-limiting illness. The incubation period is anywhere from 2 to 7 days and around 80% of infections with the virus tend to go unnoticed.

Typical symptoms include:

  • conjunctivitis,
  • muscle and joint pain
  • and a rash.

Most people notice symptoms typically within two weeks after travel to a Zika virus infected area.


Sexual Transmission:

There is now very little doubt that infection with Zika virus can cause adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes. The focus is now also shifting to possible sexual transmission. There have been reported cases of the virus spreading to people who have not visited affected countries. It is thought that sexual transmission is possible. It is still unclear how long the virus remains in the semen of infected men. Men who have partners that are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should use condoms for 28 days if asymptomatic and for 6 months if they develop symptoms.


Who Should Be Tested?

The following categories of people should consider being tested for the virus:

  • Symptomatic pregnant women who have travelled to a country where infection has occurred.
  • Asymptomatic pregnant history who have a positive travel history at between 2 and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Men who have travelled to Zika areas or who have had Zika virus and whose partners are pregnant or might become pregnant should use condoms as described above.


Tests For the Zika Virus:

During the first week after symptoms develop, the Zika virus disease can be diagnosed using a sophisticated RT-PCR test. After day 7 a virus specific antibody test (IgG & IgM) can be performed. The turnaround time for this test is around 7-9 days.

There is currently no treatment or vaccine available for Zika virus infection, however vaccine trials are thought to start in September 2016.