The Zika Virus - What You Need to Know

About Zika Virus

The Flavivirus Family Until the last year, the Zika virus was a little known virus that was seen mostly in Africa, where it rarely caused serious symptoms. It has recently garnered international attention and concern because of a dramatic spike in cases in South America and Central America, that are resulting in serious birth defects.

Named after the Zika Forest in Uganda, the virus has been around since 1947. The first human infection was in 1952. It was primarily in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands until the last couple of years when cases started appearing in South America, Central America, and most recently in the Caribbean.


The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the same type of mosquito that spreads other viruses like Dengue and Chikungunya. The mosquito becomes infected by biting someone who has contracted the virus. It also can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, and can be sexually transmitted by a man to his partner.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that couples use protection to prevent transmission of the Zika virus from an infected male partner.


Zika Fact CardOnly about one in five people infected with the Zika virus will feel sick. The symptoms are usually mild and can include rash, joint or muscle pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), or a headache. Because the symptoms can mimic several other diseases, most people will not realize they have it. The incubation period is a few days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Fortunately, the virus rarely requires hospitalization and once infected, a person is likely to be protected from future infections.


The virus can be confirmed by blood work. Women who are pregnant and those who have traveled to an infected area should be especially vigilant for symptoms and should contact their healthcare provider if they have any concerns.


There are no vaccines available to prevent this disease and no medicine to treat it. The best way to prevent infection by mosquitoes is to protect yourself from betting bitten is to use insect repellent and to wear long shirts and pants when outside at dusk and dawn and when you're in mosquito prone areas.

The CDC recommends treatment that is similar to what would be done for those with other viruses:
  • get plenty of rest and fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • take Tylenol® to reduce fever or pain.
  • consult with your medical provider


There are three things you can do to prevent the spread of Zika virus:


Avoid mosquito bites

- especially in areas known for the Zika virus.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Have screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents.
(There are repellents available that have been proven safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.)
- Eliminate places near your home where mosquitoes can breed.

2. When you return from an active Zika area, continue to protect yourself against bites

for three weeks by using insect repellent, even if you have no symptoms. In this way if you have been infected, you will be less likely to pass on the virus by getting bit by a mosquito that could pass it on to another individual.

3. Do not travel to a Zika infected area if you are pregnant.

If you are pregnant and your partner has traveld to a Zika area, condoms should be used for the entire pregnancy.

City of Bowie Program

The City of Bowie, in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Agriculture has an aggressive mosquito control program. Learn more about the program and the spraying schedule at Mosquito Control