What are the symptoms of Zika fever

Zika feverIndicationsInfectious diseases Zika fever is a viral infectious disease caused by Zika virus, a single-stranded RNA virus in the flavivirus family. The viruses are predominantly from mosquitoes of the genus Aedes transferred when sucking blood. Men can pass the disease on through sexual intercourse. The most common possible symptoms include a fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The course is usually mild and the disease only lasts a few days to a week. However, infection during pregnancy can lead to a serious complication, microcephaly in the child. The head size and the mental abilities of the child are reduced.

synonymous: Zika, Zika virus, ZIKV


Possible symptoms of Zika fever include fever, feeling sick, a rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, and conjunctivitis. The disease is usually benign and lasts a few days to a week (2 to 7 days). A symptom-free course is common. Guillain-Barré syndrome can rarely occur as a complication.

Infecting a pregnant woman can cause microcephaly and other brain damage in the child. The head circumference of the children is much smaller than that of their peers. Microcephaly is associated with intellectual disability.

Zika fever was originally observed in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands. In 2015 it spread to Central and South America. The virus was discovered in Uganda in 1947. The first human cases were observed in 1952.


The infectious disease is caused by the Zika virus, a small, enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the flavivirus family. Other members of this family include the dengue virus, the West Nile virus and the yellow fever virus.

The Zika virus is prevalent by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes transferred when sucking blood. This includes Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito and Aedes albopictuswho have favourited Asian tiger mosquito. These mosquitoes are active during the day and multiply in stagnant water.

Transmission from the infected mother to the unborn child is rarely possible. Infected men can pass the disease on through sexual intercourse. Infections through contaminated blood have been described (e.g. blood transfusion).


The diagnosis is made during medical treatment based on the patient's history, clinical symptoms and laboratory methods (blood, urine test). Similar complaints are caused, for example, by dengue and chikungunya fever, which are transmitted by the same mosquitoes.


No vaccine is yet available for prevention. Mosquito bites should be avoided in risk areas. The mosquitoes bite mainly during the day:

  • Use suitable repellents such as DEET, Icaridin or EBAAP (IR3535).
  • Treat clothing and equipment with permethrin.
  • Wear clothes with long sleeves and long pants.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Remove standing water (e.g. flower pots).
  • Kill insects with an insecticide.
  • Use the air conditioner (avoid open windows).
  • Infected people should take care not to pass the virus on.
  • Use condoms during sexual intercourse.

As a precaution, pregnant women should not travel to areas where Zika fever is endemic.


So far, there are no specific drugs for the treatment. Adequate hydration and bed rest are recommended. Paracetamol can be taken for symptomatic therapy of fever and pain. NSAIDs and acetylsalicylic acid are not recommended (risk of bleeding if dengue is not Zika).

see also

Paracetamol, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus, yellow fever, mosquito bites

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Illustration: CDC, public domain


Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on April 24, 2019.
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