Skip to site content

Zika Overview for Patients and Providers

by CAPT John Mosely Hayes, DrPH, MSPH, MBA, Sr. Epidemiologist, Division of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention, Office of Public Health Support, IHS

Zika virus transmission is occurring in the US. So far there is no specific Zika vaccine or medicine. To date, IHS is not aware of any member of a federally recognized Tribe with a confirmed Zika infection.

The top five things you need to know about Zika are:

1. Zika virus primarily spreads through infected mosquitoes. You can also get Zika through sex. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika. Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners, even if the person doesn’t have symptoms.

2. The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Use Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellent. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens. Remove standing water around your home.

3. Zika is linked to birth defects. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly that is a sign of incomplete brain development. If you are pregnant and have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with risk of Zika, use condoms or do not have sex during your pregnancy. To be effective, condoms should be used from start to finish, every time during vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

4. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with risk of Zika. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission during your trip.

5. Returning travelers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites and sex. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning from an area with risk of Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites a person while he or she has Zika virus in his or her blood, the mosquito can become infected and then infect other people. Couples with a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with risk of Zika, especially those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, should take steps to protect during sex. Zika can stay in semen for months after infection (even without symptoms), and can be spread to partners during that time.

For Tribal governments the CDC Zika Interim Response Plan Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov is especially helpful for obtaining Zika response resources and guidance. The IHS is working with the CDC and other organizations like the National Indian Health Board and IHS-sponsored Tribal Epidemiology Centers in supporting Zika response activities in Indian country.

If you have additional questions on transmission and prevention of the Zika virus, you can obtain up-to-date CDC information on the "for patients" and "for providers" IHS Zika websites.

Related content:

Getting Tested for HIV is the Key for Early Awareness and Treatment

Hepatitis C Virus in Indian Country

April is STD Awareness Month


CAPT John Mosely Hayes, DrPH, MSPH, MBA, Sr. Epidemiologist, Division of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention, Office of Public Health Support, IHS

CAPT John Mosely Hayes, DrPH, MSPH, MBA, is the Sr. Epidemiologist in the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention. He serves as the IHS Epidemiology Data Mart steward and lead on multiple special activities, projects and requests for information related to public health epidemiology and infrastructure in Indian country.