Zika Frequently Asked Questions

What is Zika virus?  

Zika virus is an emerging infection spread by mosquitos. It has caused epidemics in Central and South America and the Caribbean and Asia since 2015. Zika virus is similar to the chikungunya and dengue viruses, which are also transmitted by mosquitos and are present in the same regions.

How is Zika virus spread?  

Zika virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes. The mosquito becomes infected with Zika virus when it bites an infected person. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people. Zika virus can also be transmitted from mother to newborn, via sexual contact and by blood transfusion.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?  

Only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms. Symptoms, which begin 3-12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild in healthy adults and may last from several days to a week. Infections of pregnant women have been linked to miscarriage and microcephaly, a congenitally small head in the infant.

How many cases of microcephaly occur in Tennessee each year? 

An estimated 45-50 cases of microcephaly occur per year in Tennessee.

How many cases of Zika Virus-related microcephaly have occurred in Tennessee?

  No cases of Zika virus-related microcephaly have occurred in Tennessee to date. The Tennessee Department of Health made all microcephaly cases reportable in February 2016, and any cases with risk factors related to Zika virus infection will be investigated.

What is the treatment of Zika virus?  

There is no medicine to treat Zika virus infection. Infected individuals should get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and take medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen or paracetamol to relieve fever and pain. Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should not be taken until dengue is ruled out.

Is there a vaccine for Zika virus?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against Zika virus infection.

What should I do if I am pregnant and have traveled or am thinking of traveling to an area with active Zika virus transmission?  

It is recommended that pregnant women should not travel to areas where there is risk of Zika virus infection. CDC’s travel advisory can be found at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information and current guidance for pregnant women can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/protect-yourself.html.

Where are outbreaks of Zika virus occurring?  

Outbreaks of Zika virus occur primarily in areas where certain species of mosquito are present. Zika virus infection is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Aedes aegypti is the current vector of importance in the Americas. See CDC’s website for a current list of affected countries: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.

Are the types of mosquitoes that transmit Zika found in Tennessee? 

Aedes aegypti has been found in Tennessee in the past. Aedes albopictus, commonly referred to as the Asian tiger mosquito, is found throughout Tennessee. Both types of mosquitoes are aggressive and bite mostly during the daytime. They primarily live near peoples’ homes, breed in containers, and do not fly very far.

What can I do to reduce these mosquitoes around my home? 

Removing containers or dumping out any standing water at least once a week, or using larvicides such as mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes in water that cannot be dumped out, will reduce the numbers of these mosquitoes around homes. 

Are there local resources that could help with mosquito control?  

Yes, there are private pest control companies, and a few local governments have mosquito control capabilities. In Tennessee, these include the Davidson, Knox and Shelby County health departments and public works departments in approximately 13 municipalities across the state. There is no statewide vector control program in Tennessee.

Could Zika virus occur in Tennessee? 

People returning with infections from other countries could lead to local transmission when mosquitoes are abundant. Local transmission means mosquitoes in the area have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to people. Local transmission has occurred in some parts of the United States such as in Miami-Dade County, FL and Cameron County, TX.

How can I prevent myself from being infected with Zika virus? 

For travelers to areas with Zika virus, the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes can be reduced by wearing long sleeves and long pants and staying in places with air conditioning or window and door screens. Proper application of mosquito repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET on exposed skin also decreases the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Bed nets should be used to help prevent exposure to malaria, but since Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus bite during the day, bed nets will not help prevent exposure to Zika virus, chikungunya or dengue.

What should I do if I have recently traveled to a country where Zika virus has been found?

If you experience fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis (red eyes) within 2 weeks of returning home, see your healthcare provider and inform him or her of your travel history. Minimize your exposure to mosquitoes while you are ill to avoid transmission the disease locally. If you are pregnant, contact your physician for additional follow up even if you are not feeling sick. CDC’s current recommendations for management of pregnant women who have traveled to Zika virus affected countries can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6629e1.htm?s_cid=mm6629e1_w.

Who should I contact for more information?

For general information about Zika virus and surveillance for mosquito-borne diseases in Tennessee, call your Regional or County Health Department or the Tennessee Department of Health at 615-741-7247. Regional and County Health Department numbers are available at https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments.html. You may also visit the Tennessee Department of Health website: https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/zika-virus.html. For national Zika virus data, visit the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.