The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association and the Virginia Department of Health held a joint press conference July 13, 2016 to highlight the importance of Zika prevention habits, and the ongoing coordination and cooperation between hospitals and health systems and the public health infrastructure to prepare for a range of public health challenges, including infectious diseases. Watch a video of the news conference below.

About Zika

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The Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. It can also be transmitted sexually, and from mother to fetus. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Treatment consists mainly of supportive care to relieve symptoms. Vaccines and commercial tests for Zika are under development, but at present there is no known cure or vaccine for Zika.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

Specific areas where Zika is spreading are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. If traveling, please visit the CDC Travelers’ Health site for the most updated travel information.

For Virginia-specific Zika updates, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website for more resources and information.

Zika Prevention

There is currently no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus, but we do now how the Zika virus is transmitted, and so we have some handy tips to prevent contraction of Zika.

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent spray.
  • Wear protective clothing to ward off mosquitoes.
  • Avoid standing water.
  • Use prophylactics during intercourse.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you exhibit Zika symptoms.

If you believe you have contracted the Zika virus, protect others from getting sick by preventing mosquito bites, as the virus can be transmitted via an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. To help prevent others from getting sick, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness. A man with Zika virus can pass it to his female or male sex partners. Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long Zika stays in semen. To help prevent spreading Zika from intercourse, use prophylactics.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommends you Tip, Toss, and Cover..

Zika and Pregnancy

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to Zika and pregnancy. What we do know is that pregnant women can be infected with Zika, primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Zika can be spread by a man to his partners through intercourse, and a pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or at delivery. It is currently unknown how likely it is for a pregnant woman to get Zika, and if she is infected, it is unknown how the virus will affect her or her pregnancy.

Zika and Microcephaly

The CDC has recently announced that there is enough evidence to conclude that the Zika virus during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika and Other Birth Outcomes

In addition to microcephaly, Zika has been linked to problems in infants including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.

Future Pregnancies

Based on current evidence, the CDC believe that the Zika virus infection in a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood. From what is known about similar infections, once a person has been infected with Zika virus, he or she is likely to be protected from a future Zika infection.