Student Health Service

To Promote and Advance the Health and Wellbeing of our Students

Zika Virus in the Western Hemisphere

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since that time reports of transmission of this infection in other locations across the world have emerged.

Wake Forest University Student Health Service has continued to work with the CDC, state and local health departments to provide guidance to our campus community regarding the most current recommendations and information about the Zika virus. To date, there have been no reported cases of transmission of this infection from mosquitos in North Carolina. If this changes, updates will be made to available to our campus community.

For the most current information regarding areas in which local transmission has occurred, ways to prevent infection and what to do if you suspect you have been infected, please visit the CDC website:  http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/needtoknow.html

What is Zika and how is it spread?

The virus is a “Flavivirus” closely related to yellow fever virus, dengue virus, West Nile virus, and Japanese encephalitis virus. This virus is spread primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.  It can also be spread from a pregnant mother to her unborn child, through sexual contact with an infected partner, or through blood transfusions.

What are symptoms of Zika?
The illness caused by the Zika virus is generally mild; most individuals (60 to 80%) infected with the virus have no symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms generally have low grade fevers, a “maculopapular” rash (similar to rashes caused by other viruses), joint pain and stiffness, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and conjunctivitis (or “pink eye”). These symptoms usually occur about 3-12 days after being infected by the virus, and usually resolve in about a week. Complications and the need for hospitalization are rare.

Other conditions associated with Zika

There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) in mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Public health officials have determine that this Zika virus is the cause of these increased cases of microcephaly.

In several countries that have experienced Zika there has also been an increase in the number of cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or “GBS” an uncommon nervous system illness in which nerve cells are damaged by the immune system.  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 determine if they are related.

Preventing infection with Zika virus:
There is no vaccine or medication that can prevent transmission of Zika virus. When traveling to an area where Zika is known to exist it is important to take steps to avoid mosquito bites. For steps on mosquito bite prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html

Zika transmission from sexual activity:
Sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, and is of particular concern during pregnancy.  Sexual transmission of many infections, including those caused by Zika as well as other viruses, is reduced by consistent and correct use of latex condoms.  For more information about the sexual transmission of Zika virus refer to the CDC website: “Zika and Sexual Transmission.”

Where has Zika been found?
Up to date information about travel advisories for risk of Zika virus can be found on CDC website which is updated regularly: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

CDC Travel Advisory:
As a precaution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending women who are pregnant or who are considering pregnancy should avoid travel to any country where there is an outbreak of this virus. Consult a physician if travel is unavoidable. If pregnant women or women considering pregnancy forego this recommendation, they should adhere to strict measures to prevent mosquito bites.

If you think you may be ill with Zika virus:

Consult with a physician if you develop symptoms consistent with Zika virus within two weeks of returning from travel from an infected country or if you develop symptoms consistent with Zika virus after sexual contact with someone known to be infected with the virus. Other mosquito-borne illnesses can cause similar symptoms and testing may be necessary to determine the cause.