What is the Zika Virus

What is the Zika Virus

The Zika virus is classed as a flavivirus. Flava viruses are named after the yellow fever virus. A Zika virus infection does not generally cause symptoms and only one in five (20%) of those infected develop symptoms. The virus is however transmitted from mothers to unborn babies and can result in babies being born with small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. It is also believed that the virus causes a condition known as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

How do you get infected?

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The Aedes mosquito has characteristic black and white stripes across its body.


The mosquito bites mainly during the day. Zika virus can also be transmitted through sex and has been detected in semen, blood, urine, amniotic fluids, saliva as well as body fluids found in the brain and spinal cord.

Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her foetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

Symptoms of infection

The Zika virus as stated above usually causes a mild illness. Symptoms when they do occur will be a few days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are:

5.Joint Pain
The symptoms only last for a few days up to a week.



Diagnosis is based on symptoms and the person’s recent history (e.g. mosquito bites, or travel to an area where Zika virus occurs). Laboratory testing can confirm the presence of Zika virus in the blood. However, this diagnosis may not be reliable as the virus could cross-react with other viruses such as dengue, and yellow fever. 


The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest and plenty of water. If symptoms worsen, people should seek medical advice. There is no vaccine or specific medication to treat  Zika.