Zika Virus – Special Edition

Zika virus (Zika) outbreaks are occurring in many countries and territories. Please share the following information with those who may find it useful.

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Table of Contents

Zika Transmission

With the recent outbreaks in the Americas, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. CDC can’t predict how much Zika virus will spread in the continental United States. To date, Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. However, lab tests have confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States from areas with Zika.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). A man with Zika virus can pass it during sex to his partners. Some non-travelers in the United States have become infected with Zika through sex with someone who has traveled to an area with Zika. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus. However, recent outbreaks in the continental United States of chikungunya and dengue, which are spread by the same type of mosquito, have been relatively small and in limited areas.

Not having sex can eliminate the chance of getting Zika from sex. Men who live in or travel to areas with Zika can avoid transmitting Zika to their partners by using condoms every time they have sex, or by not having sex. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly (warning: this link contains sexually graphic images) from start to finish, every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.

Birth Defects

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly, a severe birth defect that is a sign of a problem with brain development, and other severe fetal brain defects.

In addition to microcephaly, other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. Although Zika virus has been linked with these other problems in infants, there is more to learn. Scientists continue to study the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis.

  • The Brazil Ministry of Health has reported an increased number of people who have been infected with Zika virus who also have GBS.
  • GBS is very likely triggered by Zika in a small proportion of infections, much as it is after a variety of other infections.
  • CDC is investigating the link between Zika and GBS.


The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The sickness 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 is no medicine for Zika. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms.

The following steps can reduce the symptoms of Zika:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen, to reduce fever and pain.
  • Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding.
  • If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

To prevent others from getting sick, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness.


There is no vaccine for Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

To learn more, please visit CDC’s Zika virus page and key messages.


CDC welcomes suggestions and feedback. If you would like to comment on any of these announcements or send us suggestions, including suggestions for new content, please contact us at emergencypartners@cdc.gov.

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Zika Topic of the Week: “Protect Moms-To-Be”


For more information, please see Zika Prevention, Zika and Pregnancy, and Zika and Sexual Transmission.Rally around the moms-to-be in your community and help protect pregnant women.

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Podcast: “Zika and Pregnancy: What Pregnant Women Need to Know”


As a pregnant woman, you may have questions about Zika.
Learn more about what Zika is, what it means for pregnant women, and how you can protect your pregnancy.


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CDC and EPA Urge Puerto Rico to Consider Aerial Spraying as Part of Integrated Mosquito Control to Reduce Zika-Associated Birth Defects

Acting on data from multiple scientific studies in Puerto Rico that show that Zika is spreading rapidly and is a major risk to pregnant women and their fetuses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend the people and the government of Puerto Rico consider implementing aerial spraying as part of an integrated mosquito control program.

“Multiple independent data sources indicate that at current trends thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico will catch Zika,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The continental United States has been using aerial spraying for decades to reduce mosquito populations, and we urge the people of Puerto Rico to consider using the same proven and safe tactic.”

“Our recommendations for mosquito control in Puerto Rico are the same as our recommendations for mosquito control elsewhere in the United States—integrated pest management,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “An integrated and comprehensive approach includes reducing places where mosquitoes lay eggs, keeping them out of houses, and reducing the populations of both larval and adult mosquitoes by treating areas with EPA-approved products. We strongly encourage the people of Puerto Rico to consider aerial spraying as this approach is safe for people and a proven way of controlling the spread of mosquitoes that transmit diseases from Zika to dengue to chikungunya.”…

To read more of this press release, click here.

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Upcoming Topic of the Week: “Protect Kids from Zika!”

Parents and caregivers: Learn how to protect children from Zika.

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Weekly CERC Teleconference: “Zika and CDC’s Community Emergency Response Team”

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To address the communication concerns and needs of state, local, and territorial health communicators, as well as partner organizations, CDC is hosting a series of Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) teleconferences related to Zika issues.

These teleconferences are held on a weekly basis from 1-2 pm (Eastern Time). Each week, a new CERC topic will be presented as it relates to Zika.

July 12 – CERC, Zika, and CDC’s Community Emergency Response Team – This teleconference will discuss what can be done to prepare in advance of a crisis or emergency, work to be done in the pre-crisis phase.  Additionally, we’ll cover surviving the first 48 hours of a crisis and review key risk communication points/concepts, CERC principles, and steps to take when moving from the pre-crisis to crisis phase.

Audio Conference Access Information:

1-800-369-1662 (U.S. Callers)

1-203-827-7082 (International Callers)

Passcode: 3266392

All calls will be recorded and posted to our website.

Presentation slides for this teleconference will be available on our website: https://emergency.cdc.gov/cerc/zika-teleconferences.asp

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Communication Tips: “Reputation Management”


Reputation Management

Public health officials work diligently to manage the reputations of their agencies, because they must be respected to maintain credibility and they must maintain credibility for the public to listen to them. If they fail to respond to a public health event, the public will rightfully see them as neglecting their duties and lose trust. If officials are perceived to over-react to a potential  emergency, the public may see the agency as alarmist, and not take their future warnings seriously. If public health officials provide wrong or misleading information, the public may come to see them as incompetent or dishonest and simply lose trust.

The ongoing Zika virus epidemic presents a challenge for communicators in protecting agency reputation. In areas where no locally transmitted, mosquito-borne Zika virus is present, it may be premature or inappropriate to launch a major communication campaign. At the same time, news reports about imported cases of Zika may cause some members of the public to think that the virus is spreading in their area. Further confusion may arise because Zika virus can be spread locally through sexual transmission from men who have recently traveled to areas with Zika virus.

Communicators need to be as precise as possible when talking about Zika virus, while keeping the literacy level of their communications appropriate for their target audiences. Confusion will inevitably arise. Communicators need to provide mechanisms to listen to the public and respond to questions and concerns.

Here are some methods of back-and-forth communication:

  • Providing a public information line with live operators
  • Meeting with communities and interested organizations
  • Regularly responding to questions received via Interactive websites and social media accounts
  • Meeting with clinical organizations so that clinicians are providing consistent messages to patients and their partners
  • Promptly responding to local press reports that contain inaccurate information, using press releases and asking media outlets to publish corrections

Sustained appropriate messaging, combined with back-and-forth communication between public health officials and the public, will enable an agency to steadily correct misinformation, identify needs for new messages, and reassure the public that the agency is working hard to respond appropriately to the outbreak. This will build trust and help maintain the agency’s reputation, which will ultimately enable the agency to work more effectively during an emergency.

For more resources and information on CERC, please see Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2014 Edition or Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Pandemic Influenza, 2007.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail cercrequest@cdc.gov. Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

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Online Resources


Stay Connected

These social media messages are available so that you can share on your organization’s social media accounts.

facebook.jpg#‎Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly. If you’re pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika. Check out this map of areas with active Zika transmission. http://bit.ly/29xrzi7

facebookIs someone in your family ‪#‎pregnant and concerned about Zika? Encourage them to listen to the CDC Podcast “What Pregnant Women Need to Know” http://bit.ly/29eiplo

twitter.pngProtect a #pregnant woman from #mosquitoes by removing standing water from your neighborhood. http://1.usa.gov/1ZO5w66

twitter#Zika may sound scary, but #pregnant women living in areas w. Zika can take basic steps to protect themselves http://bit.ly/29KT4Bb

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Social Media Partner Resources





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Email: EmergencyPartners@cdc.gov

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800-CDC-INFO    (800-232-4636)    TTY: 888-232-6348

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