What is Zika?
What can I do to prevent getting it? How can VA help me if I have been exposed to Zika?
Zika is a viral infection mostly spread by mosquitoes that may cause mild illness in most people. Sexual transmission has also occurred. However, if Zika is passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, it can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika. Prevention is the best intervention.
The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family against mosquito bites:
- Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants
- Use insect repellant
- Stay in places with air conditioning or window screens to keep mosquitos out
- Avoid areas with standing water
- Prevent sexual transmission by using condoms or practicing abstinence.
VA provides Zika virus testing for all Veteran patients that may have been exposed to Zika. We are working closely with the CDC to monitor the Zika virus outbreak and we follow their guidance on the Zika virus. You can learn more from CDC here.
Important VA Fact Sheets Here
VA has taken steps to ensure our staff is prepared to screen Veterans who have been exposed to Zika and to work with Veterans Choice clinicians to address the specific health needs of pregnant female Veterans with Zika.
Symptoms and Microcephaly
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital and they very rarely die of Zika.
There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. If a pregnant women Veteran is diagnosed with Zika, the Maternity Care Coordinator at her facility will work closely with her to make sure she get all the needed screening and will coordinate care between the VA and community provider.
Women Veterans enrolled in VA health care can also contact the Maternity Care Coordinator or Women Veterans Program Manager at their local VA medical center for more information.
About the Author: Dr. Maggie Czarnogorski is the Deputy Director of Comprehensive Women’s Health at VA.