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Zika Information for Providers

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What is Zika?

Zika is a virus spread by the Aedes mosquito. It can also be transmitted sexually or from a pregnant woman to her baby. Most people who get the virus will not have symptoms. Others may experience mild fever, rash, red eyes, and joint or muscle pain. These often subside within a week.

Zika infection during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects. No vaccine prevents the virus, and no medication cures it. Pregnant women should avoid travel to areas with Zika. They should also avoid unprotected sex with potentially infected partners.

The mosquitoes known to carry Zika are not found in Washington. Learn more about Zika-affected areas.

Patient counseling

For travel:

Patients who will be traveling to Zika-affected areas should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Learn more.

Patients who are pregnant or planning pregnancy should not travel to Zika-affected areas. If a pregnant woman must travel to one of these areas, the provider counsel her to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission of Zika during and after the trip.

To avoid sexual transmission:

If a pregnant woman’s partner had a possible Zika virus exposure, CDC recommends pregnant couples use condoms or abstain from sex for the entire pregnancy.

Non-pregnant couples with a partner who traveled to an area with risk of Zika can follow the designated timeframes below to minimize their risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus.

  • If a couple has a male partner and only he travels to an area with risk of Zika, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 3 months after the male partner returns (even if he doesn’t have symptoms) or from the start of the male partner’s symptoms or date of diagnosis.
  • If a couple has a female partner and only she travels to an area with risk of Zika, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 2 months after the female partner returns (even if she doesn’t have symptoms) or from the start of the female partner’s symptoms or date of diagnosis.
  • If a couple has both a male and female partner and they both travel to an area with risk of Zika, they should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 3 months after their return or from the start of symptoms or date of diagnosis.

The longer precautionary period for males is because Zika virus can persist longer in semen than in other body fluids, including vaginal fluids, urine, and blood.

Testing guidelines

Test these patients:

  • Anyone with possible Zika virus exposure through travel or sexual exposure to someone who has traveled to a Zika-affected area AND who has or recently experienced symptoms of Zika.
  • Symptomatic pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure.
  • Asymptomatic pregnant women with ongoing possible Zika virus exposure.
  • Pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure who have a fetus with prenatal ultrasound findings consistent with congenital Zika virus infection.

Consider Zika testing  for:

  • Asymptomatic pregnant women with recent possible but no ongoing exposure to Zika virus (e.g., travelers).

Zika virus testing is not recommended for preconception screening for females or males.

Order testing through commercial laboratories. The Washington State Department of Health no longer provides routine testing but will provide testing for infants of patients who are uninsured and cannot afford the test through a commercial lab.

Providers must report suspected or confirmed cases of Zika.

To report a case, visit our Report Notifiable Conditions page, or call (253) 798-6534.

Resources for providers: