Zika virus

zika klm health services

Zikavirus infection is a disease caused by the zika virus (ZIKV). The zika virus is transmitted through bites from mosquitos.

How do you become infected with the zika virus?

The zika virus is transmitted through bites from the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that carries Dengue and Chikungunya. These mosquitoes become infected with the Zika virus when they sting monkeys or people infected with the virus and then transmit it – by stinging – to others. These mosquitos are usually active during daylight hours and often live in buildings in urban areas. ZIKV is not transmitted through social contact, shaking hands, coughing and sneezing, toilets, food, and objects or surfaces. The Zika virus can sometimes be transmitted through sexual contact. However, the chance of becoming infected with the Zika virus is estimated to be very small. Because the risk of infection with the Zika virus by mosquitoes has greatly decreased, the chance of sexual transmission has also become much smaller.

What are the symptoms?

The incubation time is the time that elapses between the initial infection (bite from an infected mosquito) and the appearance of the first symptoms. The incubation time for ZIKV has not been clearly established, but is probably between 3 and 12 days.

A zika virus infection is generally mild. It is estimated that 75% of people who become infected with ZIKV experience no symptoms (i.e. a high rate of asymptomatic infection). Symptoms, if they occur, are one or more of the following:

  • Sudden onset with fever;
  • Muscle and joint pain (often in hands and feet);
  • Skin rash (often starting in the face and spreading);
  • Headache (especially “behind the eyes”);
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea;
  • People infected with the zika virus generally recover without treatment and without any serious lingering symptoms. The number of people who have died of the zika virus is very low.

Where does the zika virus occur?

The zika virus is prevalent in large regions of Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as in some countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. Bear in mind that the situation can change. For the latest information see the relevant website pages of the RIVM (Netherlands Institute for Public Health and the Environment).

Zika and pregnancy

In countries where the mosquito that transmits Zika virus occurs, pregnant women and women with a pregnancy wish can become infected with this virus. The chance of infection is small, but if you become infected, the consequences for the baby can be serious. Research shows that 6% of babies born to infected mothers had birth defects. For example, microcephaly. This is a serious predisposition disorder of the brain of the fetus. When traveling to ZIKV areas, the chance of infection with the virus is small.

Pregnant women and women with a pregnancy wish are no longer not advised to travel to these areas. Because there is still a risk, preventive advice is recommended (see below). Travel to areas where a current outbreak of Zika virus is ongoing is not recommended for all pregnant women.

Women with a pregnancy wish are advised to postpone pregnancy for a month after a trip to an area with a current outbreak. 

How can you prevent ZIKV infection?

Protection yourself against a zika virus infection:

  • General: Follow these anti-mosquito measures
  • Are you pregnant?
    • If you do travel to Zika areas as a pregnant woman, this is the following advice:
      • Strictly follow all the above-mentioned mosquito repelling measures
      • DEET up to 30% may be used throughout pregnancy, preferably no more or longer than necessary for good protection;
  • Do you wish to get pregnant?
    • To prevent transmission of the virus through sexual contact, consider using a condom during the trip and in the 2 months after the trip when having sex with a partner who has been in Zika territory.

Planning on travelling to Central, South America or the Caribbean?

If you travel to Central, South America or the Caribbean, you should also take into account the following common diseases in addition to Zika.

You can contact us for all necessary vaccinations and preventive medicines. Schedule an appointment.