Zika is a virus spread by Aedes mosquitoes (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), sexual contact, or the birth process, that has no vaccine or treatment. Although usually harmless, Zika can on rare occasions cause serious health issues such as swelling of the brain, blood disorders, or Guillain-Barré syndrome. Zika is a particular concern for pregnant women, as contracting the disease during pregnancy can cause the child to be born with significant birth defects, including microcephaly (an abnormally small head).
The risk of contracting Zika today is minimal, as eradication efforts aimed at containing its spread have been effective. Every country’s Zika status falls into one of four categories:
- Outbreak — The most severe status, this designation is given only to countries that are in the midst of a notable Zika outbreak. As of April 2022, it is not currently in effect anywhere in the world).
- Current or past cases exist, but no current outbreak — This label is used to indicate a country that has recorded at least one case of Zika at some point, confirming that contracting Zika is a possibility, but which is not currently dealing with a Zika outbreak. Still, travelers who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant and plan to visit any of these countries, may wish to consult their doctor about how to prevent Zika.
- Zika-carrying mosquitoes present but no reported cases — This category includes countries in which Aedes mosquitos exist, but which have no recorded cases of Zika.
- No Zika-carrying mosquitoes present — The lowest threat level possible. Aedes mosquitoes are not present in countries with this designation, so the chances of contracting Zika are virtually non-existent.