Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness originally identified in Africa and Southeast Asia, which has now spread to multiple countries, including local transmission in Miami, Florida.

The Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquito bites, although sexual transmission from a male or female partner is also possible. The incubation period for Zika is 3 to 12 days. Symptoms are typically mild—lasting several days to a week—and include fever, rash, joint or muscle pain, headache, and conjunctivitis. Many people with Zika do not know they have it, and an estimated 80% of those infected are asymptomatic. The most significant concern associated with Zika virus infection is for pregnant women. Complications during the pregnancy and birth defects (microcephaly) in the fetus can occur if the mother is infected during pregnancy. 

Currently there is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no specific medications to treat those infected. Laboratory testing for the Zika virus is available through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass DPH) laboratory and the CDC. Clinicians must consult with a Mass DPH epidemiologist before testing can be ordered and Mass DPH also provides telephone access (617) 983-6800 for anyone with questions or concerns about Zika.

We encourage all travelers to consider the following precautions and stay abreast of the CDC’s guidance and list of areas with active Zika virus transmission. Additional information is available for pregnant women or those anticipating pregnancy on the CDC website.

Information and guidance for Harvard affiliates traveling to Zika-affected regions can also be found on the Harvard Global Support Services website.