The zika virus, abbreviated to ZIKV, is a mosquito-borne flavivirus closely related to the Dengue virus. The zika virus is transmitted through bites from mosquitos.
What are the symptoms?
The incubation time is the time that elapses between the initial infection (bite from an infected mosquito) and the appearance of the first symptoms. The incubation time for ZIKV has not been clearly established, but is probably between three and 12 days.
A zika virus infection is generally mild. It is estimated that 75% of people who become infected with ZIKV experience no symptoms (i.e. a high rate of asymptomatic infection). Symptoms, if they occur, are one or more of the following:
- Sudden onset with fever;
- Muscle and joint pain (often in hands and feet);
- Skin rash (often starting in the face and spreading);
- Headache (especially “behind the eyes”);
- Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea;
- People infected with the zika virus generally recover without treatment and without any serious lingering symptoms. The number of people who have died of the zika virus is very low.
Where is the ZIKV prevalent at the moment?
The zika virus is prevalent in large regions of Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as in some countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. Bear in mind that the situation can change. For the latest information see the relevant website pages of the RIVM (Netherlands Institute for Public Health and the Environment).
How do you become infected with the zika virus?
The zika virus is transmitted through bites from the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that carries Dengue and Chikungunya. These mosquitos are usually active during daylight hours and often live in buildings in urban areas. It is also possible, though much more rare, for a foetus to contract the virus in the womb if the mother has become infected with zika.
How can you prevent ZIKV infection?
Protection against a zika virus infection is mainly a question of avoiding mosquito bites and – in some cases – the temporary practising of safe sex. The guidelines are described below.
- General: Follow these anti-mosquito measures, particularly during the day.
- Clothes: wear as much clothing as you can (long sleeves, long trousers, socks and closed shoes);
- DEET (mosquito repellent): during the day apply mosquito repellent (DEET) carefully and in accordance with the instructions:
- Apply sufficient DEET to all exposed areas of your skin;
- It is advisable to use products with a DEET concentration that is between 30-50 per cent (for young children and pregnant women it is advisable that the DEET concentration is less than 30 per cent);
- DEET 30 per cent products can be applied up to four times a day, for DEET 31-40 per cent the maximum frequency is three times a day, and for DEET 41-50 per cent the maximum is twice a day.
- Hotel room: Make sure your hotel room is mosquito-free (keep windows closed and only open them if you have good screens, if it’s available use air conditioning to keep the room cool);
- Feeling poorly after your return: if you have feverish symptoms, always consult a doctor during the two weeks after a stay in a region in which ZIKV is prevalent.
Read more about the prevention of zikavirus.