What is Zika?

The Zika Virus is of most concern to pregnant women and their partners. About 80% of Zika Virus infections are likely to go unnoticed in Ireland. There is no doubt that a Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly and other less immediately obvious types of brain damage.

If you think you may have been exposed, and you or your partner is, might be, or wants to be pregnant, then you should both consider getting tested.

How can I catch it?

The most common mode of transmission is through the bite of the Aedes Mosquito, commonly found in South and Central America. There is evidence however, that the range of this mosquito is expanding to include some Southern European countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Madeira and Greece. To date, the Zika Virus has been found in over 50 countries during the current outbreak.

If an infected mosquito bites a human, the virus can transfer. Our knowledge about how the virus is being transmitted is continuing to develop. As doctors find out more about Zika, our knowledge and ability to combat the virus will grow further. Today getting tested is the best way to quickly and easily establish if you have been exposed.

Zika has been found in the semen of men who have been exposed to the Zika Virus. There have been reported cases of sexual transmission of the virus from men to women, and cases of the virus spreading to people who have not been to high risk countries.

It is not known how long the virus may be present in semen, or how long after exposure the virus can be transmitted in semen. If you have been exposed to the virus, and your partner is pregnant, you should get tested and use condoms for 28 days from return if you do not have symptoms, and six months if you do have symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Most people with Zika will have a mild illness, lasting up to one week. It can take from three to twelve days from the bite for symptoms to develop.

Around 80% of people will not notice any symptoms. Symptoms, when they do occur, can include:

  • Rash
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Eye infection.

An infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy can cause problems with the pregnancy, at birth, and with the baby. The biggest risk of the Zika Virus is to pregnant women. A Zika Virus infection can cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, where the brain and head of the developing foetus does not develop correctly leading to life limiting conditions and early death.

Which countries have Zika?

The countries with a high risk of Zika virus in their mosquitoes include Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Suriname and French Guiana. The Aedes mosquito has also been found in a number of European countries including Spain, France, Greece, Madeira and Italy.

If you or your partner has been to one of these countries and may have been bitten, you should consider testing, particularly if you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy.

Anti-Malarial medication does not protect against Zika.

Who should get tested?

  • If you are pregnant, have symptoms and have been to a high-risk country you should consider getting tested.
  • If you are pregnant, do not have symptoms and have been to a high-risk country in weeks 2 to 12 of your pregnancy, you should consider getting tested
  • If you are male, your partner is or may be pregnant, and you have been to a high-risk country, then you should consider getting tested.
  • If you are worried that you may have been exposed to the Zika Virus then you could consider a test.

Men who have been to a high-risk country, whose partners are pregnant, should get tested and use condoms for 28 days (from the day of return to the UK) even if they have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, then you should get tested and use condoms for six months from the date of return.

How can I test for Zika?

If your exposure was less than a week ago, we would suggest the PCR test. This test looks for the RNA of the Zika Virus in your blood. This is a blood test, and results take 7 to 9 days from receipt of the sample in the laboratory.

If your exposure was more than one week ago, you should have the Zika Antibody test. This is a blood test, and results take five working days from when your sample is received in the laboratory.

The same mosquito that carries the Zika Virus also carries other viruses including Chikungunya Dengue and Yellow Fever. These are also serious infections that can lead to life-threatening illness. If you think you might have been exposed to the Zika Virus, you may have also been exposed to these other viruses and should consider getting tested for them.

Book your Zika test

Better2Know is the world’s largest private provider of sexual health testing services. We will arrange a confidential appointment at a clinic near you with fast and accurate results for your peace of mind. Book online or call our Sexual Health Advisors now.