Emergencies preparedness, response

Zika virus disease

Zika podcast series: Evidence in action

August 2017 - WHO Zika podcast series, called Evidence in action, focuses on Zika virus infection and the people who are working on the disease and its outcomes. WHO’s experience over 2016 has shown that Zika virus and the associated neurological complications represent a long-term public health challenge. These episodes range from tracing the disease to the long term management of Zika virus syndrome.

WHO toolkit for the care and support of people affected by complications associated with Zika virus


20 June 2017 -- This toolkit incorporates and builds upon the relevant guidelines and supportive documents developed in the past year from WHO and partners as part of the overall global response to Zika. The toolkit is designed to serve as a model guide, with the goal of enhancing country preparedness to Zika virus disease outbreaks.

New vector control response seen as a game-changer

Rapid unplanned urbanization, massive increases in international travel and trade, altered agricultural practices and other environmental changes are fuelling the spread of vectors worldwide, putting more and more people at risk. Malnourished people and those with weakened immunity are especially susceptible.

Zika: We must be ready for the long haul


2 February 2017 - "We are now in the long haul and we are all in this together," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. "WHO's strategic planning and commitment to work with partners for sustained interventions and research should go a long way towards bracing the world for this challenging – and still heart-breaking – effort."

Mapping social science research for Zika virus response


Social science research is an essential part of effective risk communication and community engagement for responding effectively to the ongoing Zika outbreak, as it is the case for any epidemic or pandemic. This interactive map allows you to gain an overview of such research to input into the response.

Knowledge Attitudes and Practice (KAP) surveys and other social science research allows responders to rapidly obtain valuable and insightful information in order to tailor interventions to better address people's needs at community level, thereby contributing to the overall public health response to Zika virus and its potential complications.

Zika virus disease


Zika is a virus spread to humans by Aedes mosquitoes - the same mosquitoes that spread dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. It usually causes mild illness, with most people sick with the virus getting a slight fever and skin rash. Others may also get conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and feel tired. The symptoms usually finish in 2 to 7 days. The best protection from Zika virus is preventing mosquito bites.

Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Key messages

  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is not clear, but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

Key messages

  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.

Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.

Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

Key messages

  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.

Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.

This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.

Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.

During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.

Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Key messages

  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.

Epidemiological information

Technical information

General information

Educational resources

Educational videos on risk communication and community engagement for Zika response
This mini-series is intended to be an educational resource for local, national or international personnel who work in Zika response.

University of Geneva online course on Zika
The central idea of this course is to bring together participants around the world having a strong interest in Zika.

Science in action - interviews with Zika experts
These series of videos cover exclusive interviews with experts who work in a diversity of scientific domains, including Zika and its neurological complications as well as vector control.

Travel advice

WHO is advising pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2, as described in table 1 in the link below.

Get the WHO Zika app

Designed to provide essential information on Zika virus disease and its suspected complications for the health care workers as well as the general public.

This page links all WHO information to its response on the Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Information in Portuguese

This page links all WHO general and technical information on Zika virus and potential complications in Portuguese.

Contact information

Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27