Zika Virus Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of Zika?

Infection with Zika virus is usually mild. Only about one in five people develop any symptoms; hospitalization is rare. If someone is going to have symptoms, they usually start between 2-7 days after exposure. The most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • a pink or red rash with small bumps (maculopapular rash)
  • joint pain
  • conjunctivitis ("pink eye," inflammation or infection of the eye)

Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, pain behind the eyes, and vomiting. Symptoms typically last several days to a week.

There have also been cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome also known as GBS, reported in patients following suspected Zika virus infection. The relationship between Zika virus infection and GBS is not known. GBS is a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves leading to tingling in the feet and legs that can spread to the upper body and be associated with weakness and paralysis.

While disease is usually mild, there have been some rare reports of death in patients with pre-existing diseases or other health conditions.

Is there treatment for Zika infection? Is there a vaccine for Zika?

No vaccines or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika virus infections, however the symptoms can be managed. This includes getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medicines, such as acetaminophen, to relieve fever and pain. Because other infections can look like Zika virus, aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be avoided until other illnesses can be ruled out.

As always, if you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

Why is Zika a concern for women who are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant?

Zika virus has been linked with serious birth defects in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. One serious birth defect associated with Zika is called microcephaly. Babies born with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads and less developed brains. More studies are needed about the risks of Zika infection during pregnancy. Meanwhile, public health authorities recommend that pregnant women should avoid travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission. Women trying to become pregnant, and women of child-bearing age, should take extra care to avoid infection with Zika. Pregnant women should talk to their doctor about their pregnancy and the risk of infection with Zika.

For more information on Zika and pregnancy: CDC's Questions and Answers: Zika virus infection (Zika) and pregnancy

Should pregnant women returning from Zika-affected areas get tested?

  • In New York State, Zika testing is available to pregnant women who have traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission at any point during the pregnancy or immediately before pregnancy. Pregnant women can be tested at any point during pregnancy.
  • New York State has expanded Zika testing to all women who, during pregnancy, had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a partner who traveled to an area with active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus. Testing for pregnant women is available regardless of whether their sex partner had symptoms.

Zika Virus Travel Advisory for Pregnant Women (color) (PDF, 2MB). Also available in: Spanish, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Haitian Creole

What if a pregnant woman's partner has traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission?

CDC and NYSDOH recommend that until more is known, men who have traveled to or live in an area where Zika virus is active and are sexual partners of pregnant women, should not have sex, or should always and correctly use condoms every time they have sex (vaginal, anal or oral) during pregnancy. Fact sheets on condoms and information on using condoms correctly are available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC at Using Condoms (aids.gov) and How to Use a Condom Consistently and Correctly (cdc.gov).

New York State has expanded Zika virus testing to all women who, during pregnancy, had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a partner who traveled to an area with active transmission of Zika virus. Testing for pregnant women is available regardless of whether the sex partner had symptoms.

Have there been cases of Zika virus infection in New York?

Yes. We have had cases in returning travelers from an area with Zika virus transmission. All cases of Zika in New York have been linked to some kind of travel outside of New York State. We expect more cases to occur in returning travelers, given the scope of this situation and the frequency of travel of New Yorkers to areas with local transmission of Zika virus. You can find out more information about areas where Zika virus is being transmitted by visiting CDC's website.

Are there areas of higher risk in the United States?

The areas at higher risk for local transmission of Zika virus in the United States are those areas that have Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This is the main vector involved in the current Zika virus outbreak in the Americas. Another species of mosquito, Aedes albopictus, may also be capable of transmitting Zika virus. This mosquito has a broader range in the United States and has been found as far north as southern NYS. Persons residing in, or traveling to, areas where these mosquito vectors are present should protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Where can health care providers go for detailed guidance on recognizing, managing, and reporting Zika virus infections?

Information can be found at:

What are NYSDOH and local health departments doing to protect New Yorkers from Zika virus?

NYSDOH is concerned about travelers returning from places where there is active Zika virus transmission, particularly pregnant women. Because New York is such a large travel destination for people from all over the world, it is likely that there may be many travel-associated cases of people with Zika infection living in and seeking care in New York.

Laboratory testing is available at NYSDOH's Wadsworth Laboratories and a few commercial labs. NYSDOH has and will continue to communicate with medical providers to educate them on how to diagnose Zika virus, and how to submit samples for testing.

County health departments are investigating Zika cases and are working with health care providers to counsel suspected cases. Patients will be advised to stay indoors or wear insect repellent during the first week of symptoms. County health departments continue to interview each potential patient to collect additional information.

NYSDOH and local health departments will also continue enhanced mosquito surveillance to track the distribution of the Aedes albopictus mosquito – the kind that could potentially spread Zika in New York.

Finally, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a comprehensive six-step action plan to combat potential transmission of Zika virus in communities across New York State. The Governor's plan targets the virus at its source – Aedesmosquitoes – with enhanced trapping and testing throughout downstate New York. Key components of the plan include distributing larvicide tablets to residents in areas where Zika is thought to be possible, providing Zika protection kits to pregnant women, assembling a rapid response team in the event of confirmed infection by an Aedes mosquito, and launching a statewide public awareness campaign website www.ny.gov/Zika.

For Additional Information: