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Zika: Overview

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Group of pregnant women.

Zika is an infection caused by a virus. In most cases, Zika spreads from one person to another through the bite of a certain type of mosquito, called Aedes, that is infected with the virus. Zika virus also can be transmitted sexually. For adults, the most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and eye infections (sometimes called “pink eye”). Zika is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being infected.

Read the Understanding the Effect of Zika Virus on Pregnancy text alternative.​

Research shows that getting Zika during pregnancy can cause birth defects in the developing fetus. In 2015, Zika virus infection was linked to microcephaly in newborn babies—a condition in which the brain and skull are smaller than normal. It also was linked to other problems with the adult nervous system. Since then, public health agencies across the world, including NICHD, have tracked the outbreak and are conducting and funding research to understand how Zika infection affects health.

NICHD is studying how Zika virus infection affects reproductive health, pregnancy, and the developing fetus. Research that explains the virus’ impact, its range of complications, and its long-term outcomes will allow health care providers to advise people of reproductive age, including couples who are planning families, on how to promote healthy pregnancies. It also will help us understand the health needs of children who were exposed to Zika virus in the womb.

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Scientific Name:

Zika virus infection

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