Zika symptoms are often very mild and usually fade on their own within days. However, because the virus is also sexually transmitted and has been linked to serious birth defects when contracted by pregnant women, it’s more important than ever for the public to recognize the signs of Zika and, if infected, avoid sexual contact with pregnant women. Here is what you need to know about the early symptoms of the Zika virus.

Early Symptoms

Zika infections often begin with a headache. Within a few days patients may develop a rash, bloodshot eyes, and run a fever. According to NBC News, the Zika rash occurs in about 90 percent of individuals who report virus symptoms, and appears as a red raised rash that is often itchy and uncomfortable. Some patients may also go on to develop joint pains in their wrists, knees, and ankles, as well as muscle pain, and pain behind the eyes. These symptoms can last for up to a week and usually appear within two weeks of the initial infection, CBS reported.

However, it must be noted that only about one in four or five people infected with Zika virus actually go on to develop any symptoms at all.

What To Do

Pregnant women who believe they may be experiencing Zika symptoms and have travelled to or currently live in areas where the virus is actively spreading are advised to get a blood test. The CDC also recommends that women living in Zika zones or who frequently travel to these areas be tested for the virus during their first and second trimester of pregnancy, even if they do not experience any of these symptoms because the majority of Zika cases are asymptomatic.

In addition, because the virus can be spread through sex, it’s important that men who live in or have travelled to Zika zones use a condom during sexual intercourse with a pregnant partner. Men who were infected with Zika should also wait six months before trying to conceive a child with their partner, since the virus may persist longer in semen.

There is no treatment for Zika. The CDC recommends that those who are infected stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and take pain relief medication such as Tylenol to reduce any pain or fever. Ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended because they raise the risk of bleeding, and one man in Puerto Rico reportedly bleed to death after he had Zika, NBC reported.

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