Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Zika virus and microcephaly

Zika virus and microcephaly
beginning of content

Zika virus

Zika virus is transmitted mainly through mosquito bites. The symptoms are usually mild, but there are worries about whether it might be dangerous for pregnant women. Here’s information about Zika and what to do if you plan to travel overseas.

What is Zika virus?

The Zika virus is spread through the types of mosquitoes that carry dengue and yellow fever. It might also be transmitted sexually.

The virus was first identified in 1947, but has recently gained attention because of new outbreaks in countries such as Brazil, and reported links between the virus and various birth defects.

Public health authorities around the world are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus.

Zika virus symptoms and treatment

Most people with Zika virus don’t notice anything. Some feel like they have the flu. In some cases it has been known to cause fever, rash, severe headache, joint pain and muscle or bone pain.

Any symptoms come on about 3 to 12 days after infection. A blood test can be used to diagnose the infection.

If you have the virus, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water and treat any pain and fever as you normally would. If your symptoms gets worse, see your doctor.

Can Zika virus be prevented?

The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites in areas with known outbreaks. Mosquito bites can be avoided by wearing long-sleeved clothing, using insect repellents and bed nets and sleeping in rooms that are enclosed or air-conditioned.

There is no vaccine to prevent infection by Zika virus.

Pregnant women and Zika virus infection

It is likely that Zika virus causes microcephaly. This is a condition in which the baby is born with a small head and intellectual disability.

As a precaution, the Department of Health advises pregnant women and women planning pregnancy to consider delaying travelling to countries where the virus outbreak has been detected.

Read more about the Zika virus and pregnancy on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website.

What countries have Zika?

It is most prominent in South America and Central America. Outbreaks have also been reported in Thailand and in the Pacific nations of Samoa, New Caledonia and Tonga.

Check the Department of Health’s up-to-date list with countries with current or local transmission of Zika virus.

There have been no reported cases of Zika being contracted in Australia, although there have been a handful of cases of travellers returning with the virus from overseas in recent years.

Guidelines for travellers

If you are planning to travel overseas, consult appropriate travel health advice and check the Zika virus bulletin at smartraveller.org.au.

If you have recently returned from overseas and want to donate blood, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service has updated information at donating after travelling.

If travel is unavoidable, you should follow guidelines to prevent mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent, wearing light-coloured clothes that cover as much of the body as possible, staying indoors and sleeping under mosquito nets.

Last reviewed: April 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 28 results

Department of Health | Zika Virus

You are here:Home /For Consumers /Conditions and Diseases /Communicable Diseases Information /Zika Virus /

Read more on NSW Health website

Zika virus

Read more on Queensland Health website

Zika virus - Better Health Channel

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus. There is no cure, specific treatment or vaccine for Zika virus.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

Pregnant women are being advised not to travel to certain countries after reports of an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Zika virus warning

WA Health is reminding pregnant women to take precautions against mosquito bites if travelling to countries currently affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Read more on WA Health website

Microcephaly

Microcephaly is a rare condition associated with mild to severe developmental delays and disability. Read how it can affect pregnancy and its link to zika virus

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Chikungunya virus

Read more on Queensland Health website

Chikungunya

Chikungunya is transmitted to people by being bitten by a mosquito that is infected with the virus. Symptoms include fever, rash and sore joints. The virus is mainly found in Africa and Asia. Travellers to affected areas should avoid mosquito bites to prevent infection.

Read more on NSW Health website

Japanese Encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a rare but serious infection of the brain caused by a virus that is transmitted through mosquito bites. It occurs in many parts of Asia.

Read more on NSW Health website

Prevent mosquito-borne disease on holiday overseas

In some overseas countries, mosquitoes can transmit serious and potentially fatal diseases such as dengue, malaria and Japanese encephalitis. It is important to visit your GP at least 6 weeks prior to traveling overseas to determine any health risks associated with your destination.

Read more on WA Health website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback