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The Zika Virus: Information for UW Students and Staff

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes. While the illness in adults is usually mild, Zika can cause harm to a developing fetus. In January of 2016, the CDC advised pregnant women to postpone travel to affected regions or, if they must travel, to take precautions against mosquito bites.

If you have some of the symptoms listed below and have recently traveled to an area where Zika is present, consult a healthcare provider.

Where has Zika been reported?

As of early 2019, Zika outbreaks have been reported in:

  • India

For the most up-to-date information, consult CDC’s Zika virus resources.


Zika is spread by the same type of mosquito that transmits dengue fever and chikungaya.

Aedes mosquitoThis mosquito, the Aedes species, lays eggs in standing water, and is active in the daytime both indoors and outdoors. It prefers to bite people (as opposed to livestock or other animals).

Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. Breastfeeding may also be a means of transmission, but this has not been confirmed.

While the primary vector – vehicle for transmission – is mosquitoes, there have been several incidences of people becoming ill after sexual contact with someone else with the virus.


The Zika virus causes mild symptoms in about 1 in 5 adults who contract it. Within a week after a mosquito bite, people ill with Zika may develop:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

Symptoms usually last less than a week.


There is no way to prevent or treat the Zika virus. A vaccine is thought to be a decade away.

While you have symptoms, be sure to take care of yourself:

  • Rest
  • Drink fluids
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever
  • Don’t take aspirin, and talk to your doctor about the safety of taking any other prescription medications

If you have the Zika virus, be sure to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, and using mosquito repellant. Remember that mosquito bites spread Zika.

Pregnancy & Zika

Pregnant women who are infected with Zika may be more likely to have babies with microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal, and is associated with many health and developmental problems.

The CDC has advised women who are pregnant to either postpone travel to affected areas until after the outbreak is over, or to take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Zika in North America?

Experts don’t predict an outbreak in the US. Widespread outbreaks of other mosquito-borne viruses, such as Dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile, have been prevented by proactive measures like spraying mosquitoes and eliminating standing water, where mosquitoes breed.