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Zika VirusTCHD logo


Up-to-date information from the CDC


Frequently Asked Questions:

Source: NYSDOH (Source revised March 2016; this page updated April 2016)

NYSDOH Resouorces

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What is Zika virus?

Zika is a flavivirus related to dengue, West Nile, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. It was first isolated in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika region of Uganda and in 1968 from a human in Nigeria. Since that time, serologic evidence of human infections has been reported in several countries in tropical Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. In addition, Zika virus has been implicated as the cause of three mosquito-borne disease outbreaks outside of Africa and Asia, including Micronesia in 2007, French Polynesia in 2013, and the current outbreak in the Americas, which was first identified in May of 2015.

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

NYSDOH is concerned about returning travelers, particularly pregnant women. Because New York is such a large travel destination with a cosmopolitan population, it is likely that there will be many travel-associated cases of people with Zika virus infection living in and seeking care in New York.

Laboratory testing is available at NYSDOH's Wadsworth Laboratories. Wadsworth is one of only a few state public health laboratories outside of the CDC that can test for Zika virus. We have reached out to medical providers via health advisories and informational messages to educate them on how to diagnose Zika virus, and how to submit samples for testing. This communication will continue as needed.

We are continuing to track the distribution of Aedes albopictus through enhanced mosquito surveillance.

County health departments will be investigating suspect cases of Zika virus, and should obtain the following information: symptom onset date, list of clinical signs and symptoms, travel history including dates and location, co-morbidities and pregnancy status, and relevant laboratory testing.

In the months when mosquitoes are active in New York, cases of Zika virus pose a risk of transmission during their first week of infection, when local mosquito populations in southeastern areas of the state can obtain Zika virus from them and potentially pass it on to others. As such, during the spring, summer and fall, county health departments will be asked to investigate Zika virus cases in a timely manner and work with health care providers to counsel suspect cases on the importance of avoiding further mosquito exposure by staying indoors or wearing insect repellent during the first week of symptoms.

On March 17, 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a comprehensive six-step action plan to combat potential transmission of the Zika Virus in communities across New York State. The Governor's plan targets the virus at its source – Aedes mosquitoes – with enhanced trapping and testing throughout the entire downstate region. Key components of the plan include distributing larvicide tablets to residents in the potentially Zika affected area, 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.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

Infection with Zika virus is usually mild. About one in five people develop symptoms; hospitalization is rare. If someone is going to have symptoms, they usually start between 2-7 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are:

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

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

There is no evidence that Zika virus can cause death. However, sporadic cases have been reported of more serious manifestations and complications in patients with preexisting diseases or conditions, causing death.

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

No vaccines or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika virus infections.

If someone is ill as a result of Zika virus, the symptoms should be treated. This includes getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, 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 like dengue fever can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage.

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

Why is Zika virus significant for women who are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant?

There have been reports in Brazil and other countries of microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. While more studies are needed to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, public health authorities are recommending that pregnant women, women actively trying to become pregnant, or women of child-bearing age take special precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to Zika virus. Given the possible link between infection with Zika virus and microcephaly, pregnant women should be advised to consult with their OB/GYN to discuss further evaluation.

For more information on Zika and pregnancy:

What are the recommendations for testing pregnant women returning from Zika virus affected areas?

  • In New York State, Zika virus testing will be offered to pregnant women, who traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission at any point during or immediately before pregnancy. Testing is being offered to pregnant women at any point during pregnancy.

CDC has issued interim guidelines for testing pregnant women returning from Zika virus affected areas.

What precautions should pregnant women take to be safe from infection with Zika Virus if their sexual partner has traveled to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission?

CDC and NYSDOH recommend that until more is known, males who have traveled to or live in an area with active Zika virus transmission and are sexual partners of pregnant women, abstain from sex or consistently and correctly use latex condoms during each act of vaginal, anal, or oral sex for the duration of the 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 availability to all pregnant women who, during pregnancy, had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a sex partner who traveled to an area with active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus. Testing is available regardless of whether the sex partner had symptoms consistent with Zika virus infection.

Are there recommendations for health care providers?

CDC has issued a health alert on recognizing, managing, and reporting Zika virus infections. That alert can be found here:

Have there been cases in New York, or in other parts of the United States?

There have been cases in travelers who have returned from areas where Zika virus is common. Local transmission of Zika virus (virus acquired locally), has not been identified in New York, or anywhere in the continental U.S.

Is there a risk of getting infected with Zika virus in New York?

In almost all cases, Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once warmer weather arrives, mosquitoes become active, and there may be a small risk of locally acquired cases in parts of New York where a certain mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, is present. The distribution of this mosquito is currently limited to New York City and the following counties: Nassau, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.

NYSDOH has been tracking the distribution and abundance of this species of mosquito, and will continue to do so.


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