CDC Emergency Partners Newsletter - Special Zika Virus Edition - April 29, 2016

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Emergency Partners Newsletter


April 29, 2016

Zika virus (Zika) outbreaks are occurring in many countries and territories. Please share the following information with those who may find it useful.

Table of Contents

Types of Transmission

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). To date, Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. However, lab tests have confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States from areas with Zika. Zika virus can also be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his male or female partnersSome non-travelers in the United States have become infected with Zika through sex with a traveler.

With the recent outbreaks in the Americas, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. CDC is not able to predict how much Zika virus would spread in the continental United States. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus. However, recent outbreaks in the continental United States of chikungunya and dengue, which are spread by the same type of mosquito, have been relatively small and limited to a small area.

Not having sex is the only way to prevent sexual transmission of Zika. Couples with men who live in or travel to areas with Zika can prevent the spread of Zika by using condoms every time they have sex, or by not having sex. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly (warning: this link contains sexually graphic images) from start to finish, every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.

Birth Defects

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly, a severe birth defect that is a sign of a problem with brain development, and other severe fetal brain defects.

In addition to microcephaly, other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. Although Zika virus has been linked with these other problems in infants, there is more to learn. Scientists continue to study the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis.

  • The Brazil Ministry of Health has reported an increased number of people who have been infected with Zika virus who also have GBS.
  •  GBS is very likely triggered by Zika in a small proportion of infections, much as it is after a variety of other infections.
  • CDC is investigating the link between Zika and GBS.


The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are

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

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The sickness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.


There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

The following steps can reduce the symptoms of Zika:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen, to reduce fever and pain. 
  • Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding. 
  • If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

To prevent others from getting sick, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms.


The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

To learn more, please visit CDC's Zika virus page and key messages.


CDC welcomes suggestions and feedback. If you would like to comment on any of these announcements or send us suggestions, including suggestions for new content, please contact us as

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    US Zika Pregnancy Registry: "What Parents Need to Know"


    To understand more about Zika virus infection, CDC established the US Zika Pregnancy Registry and is collaborating with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to collect information about pregnancy and infant outcomes following Zika virus infection during pregnancy. The data collected through this registry will be used to update recommendations for clinical care, to plan for services for pregnant women and families affected by Zika virus, and to improve prevention of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. To read more and access additional factsheets, click here.

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    TIME: "How the United States is Bracing for Zika"


    Click the image or here to read the Time article about mosquito control and tracking, as well as other issues that the continental United States must face in the event of mosquito-borne Zika transmission.

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    PAHO: Zika Communication Resources


    Click the image or here to access infographics and videos that can help you communicate Zika risk and protection messages to your audiences.

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    Communication Tips: "Communicating Reassurance Versus Risk"

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    Communicating Reassurance Versus Risk

    Public health emergencies can cause a great deal of fear, anxiety, and dread, and these emotions can affect the actions people take to protect the health and safety of themselves and their communities. Crisis and emergency risk (CERC) communicators constantly strive to strike a balance between offering reassurance and emphasizing risks.

    Perceptions of risk will influence people’s decisions. In some cases, a perceived threat can motivate and help people take desired actions. In other cases, fear of the unknown or fear of uncertainty may be debilitating and prevent people from taking action. Communicators can help by portraying an accurate assessment of the level of danger and providing action messages to empower people to make decisions.

    The current spread of Zika virus disease (Zika) throughout areas in the Americas and the Caribbean demonstrates the importance of communicating reassurance as well as risk. CDC can confirm that  a mother’s infection with Zika during pregnancy can cause developmental defects, including microcephaly; however, Zika may not affect all pregnancies. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) may be triggered by Zika in some cases, much as it is after a variety of other infections, but research into other risks is ongoing. While there is some uncertainty as to how many people will be affected by Zika—and it may be reassuring to know that not everyone will suffer side effects—the severity of Zika’s possible consequences make it a risk worth addressing.

    Communicators must strike a balance to raise awareness about the potential outcomes of Zika infection and promote the adoption of protective behaviors while not eliciting excessive fear. Some ways to do this include:

    • Educate about locations and factors that increase or decrease risk. Understanding the likelihood of one’s own exposure will affect the degree of fear and desire for action in proportion to risk. Living in or traveling to areas where the mosquitoes that spread Zika can live shifts the degree of risk of exposure substantially. Understanding how Zika can be spread during sex from a male to his partner and determining the likelihood of the man’s exposure to Zika can affect how people perceive their own degree of risk. 
    • Establish who faces the greatest risk if exposed. Babies born to women who are infected with Zika virus during pregnancy face the greatest known risks for serious negative health outcomes, so it is most important to communicate the risks of exposure to pregnant women and to promote action to protect them from exposure.
    • Provide all information about the risk clearly and as soon as it becomes available. For example, scientists at CDC recently concluded in a publication that Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly. Prior to this it was not scientifically determined to be a cause, although it was suspected and precautions were recommended. This new evidence is an important consideration for pregnant women.
    • Describe rational reactions. There are many simple ways people can protect themselves and their communities from the spread of Zika. They can do all of these things and still enjoy outdoor activities and stay physically active in the summer months. An over-reassured public isn’t the goal. As a communicator, you want people to be concerned, remain vigilant, and talk recommended precautions. It is appropriate to express accurate levels of concern and to acknowledge fear. The objective is not to placate but to elicit calm concern. However, it is also appropriate to express empathy and offer reassurance that something is being done. This balance between reassurance and risk—while challenging—is the best way to encourage protective public health action and behavior change.   

    For more information, please visit our CERC website and refer to Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2014 Edition.

    Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

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    Online Resources


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    Stay Connected

    These social media messages are available so that you can share on your organization's social media accounts.

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    Pregnant women in any trimester should not travel to an area with Zika virus & strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

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    Couples in which a man has been diagnosed with Zika or had symptoms of Zika should consider using condoms correctly every time they have sex or should not have sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin. Learn more:

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    Men living in or traveling to areas w/ #Zika: you can spread the #Zika virus through sex. Learn more:

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    Prevent #Zika virus by preventing mosquito bites. Learn how to use insect repellent safely:


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    Social Media Partner Resources

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