What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is spread mostly from mosquitos. But it can also be spread through semen during anal, oral, or vaginal sex or from a pregnant woman to her baby. Zika can cause serious problems in pregnancy.

Zika is mostly in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Most people with Zika don’t have symptoms. When they do, the most common ones are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Symptoms are usually mild and last a few days to a week. If you’ve been to a place where the Zika virus is, make sure you tell a doctor or nurse if you or your sex partner have any of these symptoms.

For the most up to date information on Zika, where it is, and how to prevent it, go to the CDC.

How can I prevent the Zika virus?

  • Avoid traveling to areas where there’s active Zika. Zika is mostly in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you travel to any of these places, avoid mosquito bites by using bug spray, keeping windows closed, and wearing protective clothes.
  • If you’re not trying to get pregnant and you or your partner travel to an area with active Zika, use condoms during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • If you’re trying to get pregnant and you or your partner travel to an area with active Zika, use condoms for at least 8 weeks before you start trying. If your partner has Zika, use condoms and wait at least 6 months after their symptoms started before trying.
  • If you’re pregnant and your partner lives in or travels to an area with active Zika, use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex for the rest of the pregnancy.

Does the Zika virus affect pregnancy?

Yes, but Zika doesn’t always cause serious problems in pregnancy — no one can predict which pregnancies will be affected.

If you have Zika while you’re pregnant, it can cause:

  • Miscarriage.
  • Microcephaly (an abnormally small head and brain) and other serious brain problems in your baby. 
  • Eye problems, hearing loss, seizures, and growth problems in your baby.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to tell your prenatal care doctor or nurse if you were in an area with active Zika so they can give you any tests you may need.

Should I get tested for Zika?

If you may have been in an area with Zika and have symptoms, get tested. The staff at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can help you decide if you should be tested.

If you test positive for Zika and you’re pregnant, your prenatal care doctor or nurse will check the pregnancy. Microcephaly and other problems with your pregnancy can be hard to find before the third trimester.