Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
February 1, 2016

Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, (402)-471-9356

Fast Facts About Zika Virus
DHHS Monitoring Outbreaks in Other Countries Closely

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Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and its partners are monitoring outbreaks of Zika virus occurring in many countries including Brazil. Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of a mosquito. Although the virus usually causes mild illness according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have also been reports of birth defects and other severe health consequences.

“This virus is on the move and we’re watching it closely. Right now, there isn’t documented transmission of Zika virus in the U.S., but there have been confirmed cases among travelers returning to America from affected areas,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “It’s very possible that we could see a travel-related case here. We’ve shared information on recognizing, managing and reporting Zika virus infections with Nebraska health care providers.”  

Fast facts about Zika virus according to the CDC:

  • Zika virus was first recognized in 1947. The first outbreaks occurred in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific Islands. In 2015, outbreaks occurred in Brazil and other countries. Mosquitoes continue to spread the virus. Map of countries currently affected -
  • The Zika virus is transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which has never been identified in Nebraska. Aedes albopictus might also transmit the virus. This species of mosquito is found in Nebraska but isn’t one of the most prevalent. Both bite mostly in the daytime. 
  • Four out of five people infected with Zika virus will never have symptoms. Those who do get sick, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eyes. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week.
  • There are reports of a birth defect called microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Microcephaly is a rare condition where a baby’s head is smaller than expected. Health officials are still investigating the potential link. More about microcephaly -
  • The CDC recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. The latest travel health notices and information -
  • Public health officials are looking into reports of Zika virus-associated cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome from previous outbreaks. GBS is a rare disorder causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. These symptoms can last a few weeks or several months.
  • There is still a lot experts don’t know about this virus. They’re studying the science to learn more.
  • There is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat Zika virus. The best way to prevent Zika or other diseases spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites:
  • Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
  • Dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when you’re outside.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
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