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Zika Virus: What Parents Need to Know

Although Zika virus isn't always in the news anymore, parents may still have questions. View these 30-second videos describing the importance of talking to your doctor about Zika if you're pregnant and the importance of avoiding travel to areas affected by the Zika virus if you're pregnant. 

Below are additional facts you need to know about this virus.

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus that can cause the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Headache

Symptoms usually clear up in less than a week, are mild, and rarely require hospitalization. However, because the disease affects people differently, only 1 in 5 of those infected have symptoms.

Zika virus is particularly dangerous for women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant because the virus affects the developing fetus in the womb. Federal health officials have confirmed the Zika virus can cause microcephaly (babies born with a small head) and other brain and physical abnormalities in infants. Because the Zika virus can affected the fetus' developing brain and cause long-lasting negative consequences, prevention is critical.

Pediatrician Advice for Families: Responding to Your Concerns about Zika 

An expecting parent's number one wish is for a happy, healthy baby. In the video below, you will learn some basic information about the risks of Zika infection during pregnancy and strategies to deal with stress. The video also addresses what expectant parents can do or expect if Zika virus infection is suspected or known during pregnancy.


See the corresponding handout, Pediatrician Advice for Families: Responding to Your Concerns about Zika , for more information. 

How Does Zika Spread?


Mosquitoes can carry Zika from person to person. If a pregnant woman is infected, the Zika virus can be transmitted to her baby while she is pregnant or around the time of birth. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime. Some cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the United States

As the weather becomes warmer, more mosquitos will circulate. Parents should take steps to protect children from mosquito bites and make sure that everyone who cares for their children will do this, as well.

Sexual Transmission

Men who live in or have traveled to areas where the Zika virus is spreading should use condoms during sex with a pregnant partner or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, but planning to try to become pregnant, you should wait (at least 6 months, for men, and 8 weeks for women), after symptoms start or last possible exposure to try. Talk to your doctor if you are planning on trying to get pregnant and may have been exposed to Zika. Also, refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for information on protecting yourself from sexual transmission of Zika virus.


The CDC is still reviewing data on whether the virus can be transmitted through saliva and urine and is not making a recommendation related to those fluids at this time. Zika virus has been found in breast milk, and there have been several reports of Zika virus infection in babies from breastfeeding. Because current evidence suggests that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of Zika virus spreading through breastmilk, the CDC continues to encourage mothers to breastfeed, even in areas with risk of Zika.

Travel Warning

Click here for an up-to-date list of areas with ongoing Zika virus activity.

  • Until more is known about the Zika virus, the CDC has specific warnings for women and women trying to become pregnant. 

  • Women trying to become pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should talk with their doctor before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

  • Pregnant women in any trimester should not travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

  • Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.


  • The best way to prevent getting infected with Zika virus in areas where it is found is to take the following steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants or clothing made of fabrics treated with insect repellent, such as permethrin. When possible, choose clothing made with thicker fabric as mosquitos can bite through thin cloth.

  • Use insect repellents. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding can and should choose EPA-registered insect repellents and use them according to their product labels.

  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms or use a mosquito bed net (a permethrin treated bed net is best).

Vaccine Research

There are no vaccines or treatment currently available to prevent or treat Zika infection

Additional Information from CDC:

Additional Resources: 

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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