Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. Your best protection is to avoid infection. Prevent mosquito breeding and protect yourself from mosquito bites. Take extra precautions if you are pregnant, traveling, or work outdoors.
How Do You Get Zika?
Mosquito bites are the primary way that Zika virus is transmitted. The virus can be spread from mother to unborn child. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have also been reported. There have not been any reports of pets or other kinds of animals spreading or contracting Zika. Read more about Zika and animals on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website .
Not all mosquito types transmit the Zika virus. It is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (A. aegypti and possibly A. albopictus). These mosquitoes are mainly found in South Texas and along the Texas coast, but they are also present in other parts of Texas, especially urban environments. They typically lay eggs on the walls of water-filled containers like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They live indoors and outdoors.
Even if you don’t know you’re infected, mosquitoes that bite you could transmit the virus to others. Mosquitoes may pick up certain viruses, such as Zika, from biting a human who has a Zika infection. The mosquito takes a blood meal from the human and takes in the virus in the human’s blood. Then, after about 7-10 days, the mosquito may pass the Zika virus to other humans when biting them. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.
Most Texas cases of Zika are related to travel. People were bitten by an infected mosquito while traveling to areas where Zika is being spread and then diagnosed after returning home.
Sexual Contact and Blood Transfusion
The Zika virus can also be spread through sexual contact and blood transfusion. In known cases of sexual transmission, people spread the virus to their sex partners. Research shows the virus might persist in semen longer than in blood; studies to determine the duration of persistence in semen are not yet completed.
To date, there have not been any confirmed blood transfusion transmission cases in the United States. The best way to protect the U.S. blood supply is to screen blood donors using the donor history questionnaire and asking about recent travel to areas with active transmission of Zika, according to the American Association of Blood Banks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises testing for Zika virus in all donated blood and blood components .
More information about transmission is on the CDC website.
How Can I Avoid Infection?
Prevent Mosquito Breeding
- At least weekly empty or get rid of cans, buckets, old tires, pots, plant saucers and other containers that hold water.
- Keep gutters clear of debris and standing water.
- Remove standing water around structures and from flat roofs.
- Change water in pet dishes daily.
- Rinse and scrub vases and other indoor water containers weekly.
- Change water in wading pools and bird baths several times a week.
- Maintain backyard pools or hot tubs.
- Cover trash containers.
- Water lawns and gardens carefully so water does not stand for several days.
- Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.
- Treat front and back door areas of homes with residual insecticides if mosquitoes are abundant nearby.
- If mosquito problems persist, consider pesticide applications for vegetation around the home.
Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites
- Wear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents . When used as directed, these insect repellents — including those that contain DEET — are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes out with air conditioning or intact window screens.
- Limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times.
- Avoid travel to regions where the Zika virus is active.
If you have Zika, it's important to protect others from getting sick by avoiding mosquito bites the first week of illness.
Protect Against Sexual Transmission
Men and women can reduce the risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus by using barrier methods against infection consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sex when one partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission .
Prevention During Pregnancy
Zika virus is linked to the birth defect microcephaly , a condition where a baby's head is much smaller than expected and can cause developmental delays. The virus is also known to cause other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during their pregnancy. Take care to protect yourself from mosquito bites and sexual transmission. Discuss with your docto,r you and your sex partner’s history of potential exposures and any Zika-like illness . The CDC recommends that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika virus infection risk .
The CDC also recommends that all pregnant women who have a sex partner who has traveled to or resides in an area with Zika use barrier methods every time they have sex or they should not have sex during the pregnancy. Although no cases of woman-to-woman Zika transmission have been reported, these recommendations now also apply to female sex partners of pregnant women.
Prevention for Travelers
Outbreaks of Zika are occurring in many countries. In response, the CDC issued travel notices for people traveling to areas where Zika is spread in the United States, including Texas . Pregnant women should not travel to areas affected by Zika . The CDC keeps track of areas where Zika is spread and provides guidance for travel, prevention, testing, and pregnancy planning .
DSHS recommends travelers prevent infection by
- Avoiding mosquito exposure.
- Taking precautions against sexual transmission.
- Using screens or closing windows and doors in hotel rooms.
Travelers should avoid mosquito bites for 21 days following their return or the onset of illness. Travelers should also use EPA-registered insect repellents and take precautions against sexual transmission after returning home. This prevents spreading the virus to mosquitoes in Texas.
Prevention for Outdoor Workers
If you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, there is a greater chance that a mosquito carrying the Zika virus could bite you. Although rare, the Zika virus may cause Guillain-Barré syndrome , a condition in which your immune system attacks part of your nervous system.
When you’re outside, wear clothing that covers your hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. This can include hats with mosquito netting and socks to cover your ankles. In warmer weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting pants and long-sleeve shirts.
Improve your outdoor settings by removing standing water in cans, bottles, buckets, tires, and wheel barrows. Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect.
Additionally, the CDC issued Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus .
Take Action in Communities
Local leaders can take action to help protect communities from Zika virus:
- Start or enhance monitoring and surveillance of mosquito activity.
- Speed up mosquito abatement efforts.
- Develop a local plan for mosquito reduction and surveillance; plan for extra control measures if needed.
- Encourage people to report illegal dumpsites and standing water, and respond quickly to these complaints.
- Begin efforts to clean up illegal dumpsites and collect heavy trash.
- Keep public drains and ditches clear of weeds and trash so water will not collect.
- Treat standing water with larvicide (such as mosquito "dunks") when the water will be present for more than seven days.
- Conduct neighborhood outreach about what people can do to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites.
last updated June 13, 2018