Image of a mosquito

What is Zika Virus?

Zika is a virus (germ), spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, which can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red or pink eyes). Most people infected with Zika virus do not even get sick. However, Zika virus can sometimes be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth, which may cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other possible defects.

Am I At Risk for Zika Virus?

Zika virus is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. This kind of mosquito is not found in Massachusetts. The only people at risk of getting infected are people who travel to places with Zika virus outbreaks, or have unprotected sex with someone who has traveled to those places.

Since May 2015, most Zika virus outbreaks have been in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. In July 2016, the first cases of Zika virus acquired in the continental United States were reported from Florida, where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found. Because this kind of mosquito is not found in Massachusetts, it is extremely unlikely that mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus will occur here.

Women who are pregnant or couples who are planning on becoming pregnant within six months should not travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks. If you are pregnant, and you or your partner is planning on traveling, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information about where Zika virus outbreaks are occurring and speak with your healthcare provider before making travel plans.

Preventing Zika Virus

There is no vaccine or specific treatment available for Zika virus infection. However, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from Zika virus infection, including:

  • If you are pregnant or part of a couple planning on becoming pregnant soon, do not travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission.
  • If you choose to travel, prevent mosquito exposure by:
    • Using insect repellents that are EPA registered according to the directions on the label;
    • Covering up exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants; and
    • Staying in places with screens and air-conditioning, or sleep under mosquito netting
  • In order to avoid sexual transmission of Zika virus with a male partner who has recently traveled to an area where Zika transmission is occurring, use condoms consistently and correctly during all sexual activity.

More Information for the Public

Information for Healthcare and Public Health Partners

Check the CDC website for the most current information about where Zika virus outbreaks are occurring and advise pregnant women or couples planning on becoming pregnant to avoid travel to these areas. Pregnant women that do report a recent history of travel to an area with an outbreak should be tested.

Specimens from these women should be sent to the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory. However, not all patients will meet the criteria for Zika virus testing. Please consult the Zika Clinical Advisory below for the most current testing guidelines, and contact the MDPH Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800 with questions.

CDC Guidance for Healthcare Providers

Caring for Pregnant Women and those of Reproductive Age

Caring for Infants and Children

Preventing Sexual Transmission

Laboratory Testing

This information is provided by Epidemiology Program within the Department of Public Health.