Florida public health officials announced 10 additional Zika cases have been identified in the Miami area, marking the virus’ first known outbreak through the spread of mosquitoes. While federal investigators continue to trace the transmission, pregnant women are advised to avoid travel and exercise precaution in the affected area because the mosquito-borne virus can cause severe birth defects. But for those living in the Miami area and others, how do you know if you’ve been infected?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are infected with Zika may not have any obvious symptoms. Those who do have symptoms typically experience mild fevers, rash, joint or muscle pain, itchy red eyes, or headache, which may appear as a flu-like illness. The CDC warns that symptoms can last for several days to a week, however those who have been infected are usually not sick enough to go to the hospital.

Zika Symptoms
Zika virus symptoms present themselves as the flu, which puts people at risk for not getting checked. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

If any symptoms persist after a few days, seek a doctor or health care provider to rule out Zika through blood tests and examination. If tests come back positive, the CDC recommends getting plenty of rest, preventing dehydration by drinking fluids, taking a fever reducer like acetaminophen, and abstaining from sex and travel.

Although death is very rare, the virus becomes a threat when people do not realize they’ve become infected. The virus remains in an infected person’s blood for approximately one week and because most people won’t even know they have it, they may continue to travel, and engage in sexual intercourse, ultimately worsening the spread of the virus. Insect repellents and avoiding infested areas are two of the most effective steps to avoid infection.

The Zika virus has already infected nine pregnant women traveling outside the United States, which led to two miscarriages, two elective terminations, the birth of a baby with severe microcephaly (abnormally small head and brain size), two healthy births, and two continuing pregnancies. Microcephaly rates among newborns are currently 20 times higher than numbers in previous years, putting pressure on researchers to accelerate development for a Zika vaccine.