Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus are symptomatic. The most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain
Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week, and people usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. However, it is still possible to pass Zika on to others even if you are exhibiting no symptoms. If you think you may have Zika, find out how you can get tested.
There are three types of Zika testing:
- PCR – This test checks if you have active Zika.
- IgM – This test checks if you have Zika antibodies; Zika antibodies indicate that you had Zika but do not have active Zika
- PRNT – This is a special test that differentiates between Zika and other similar arboviruses like dengue and chikungunya. In 2016, only the CDC had the capability to conduct this test. The department has expanded the capacity of our state public health labs and we now can process these tests in Florida.
CDC recommends testing people who have 2 or more symptoms with history of travel to a Zika endemic area; or have 3 or more symptoms if they suspect local transmission; or if a person lives, works, or frequents an area of active, ongoing transmission.
CDC recommends that symptomatic pregnant women with possible Zika exposure should be tested for Zika virus infection. Possible Zika exposure includes people who live in or have recently traveled to an area with documented or likely Zika virus transmission, or who have had sex without a condom with a partner (male or female) who lives in or has traveled to an area with risk of Zika virus infection. Testing recommendations for asymptomatic pregnant women with possible Zika exposure differ depending on where they traveled. See CDC’s site here for more. Serial sonograms and additional testing are recommended by the CDC, depending on the results of testing for pregnant women.
Infants & Babies
CDC recommends laboratory testing for congenital Zika for infants born to mothers with laboratory evidence of Zika during pregnancy, and for infants who have abnormal clinical findings suggestive of congenital Zika virus syndrome and a maternal epidemiologic link suggesting possible transmission, regardless of maternal Zika virus test results.
For more information, see the CDC’s pages on treatment.
Health Effects & Risks
Congenital Zika Syndrome
Congenital Zika syndrome is a pattern of birth defects found among fetuses and babies infected with Zika virus during pregnancy. Congenital Zika syndrome is described by the following five features:
- Severe microcephaly
- Decreased brain tissue with a specific pattern of brain damage
- Damage to the back of the eye
- Joints with limited range of motion
- Muscle tone restricting body movement soon after birth
Not all babies born with congenital Zika infection will have all of these problems. Some infants with congenital Zika virus infection may not appear to have developmental delays at birth, but may develop deficits as they age.
Scientists continue to study how Zika virus affects mothers and their children to better understand the full range of potential health problems.
It is important for babies with Zika to remain in the care of a doctor.
Microcephaly and Other Birth Defects
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems.
Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly. During pregnancy, a baby’s head grows because the baby’s brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis.
Several countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks recently have reported increases in people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Current CDC research suggests that GBS is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS.
CDC is continuing to investigate the link between GBS and Zika to learn more.