Zika virus is very new to most North Americans, though it's been around for decades in parts of Africa and South America. It can sound scary, and there are possible serious consequences for pregnant women and their fetuses. But before you furiously self-diagnose on the Internet, it's best to know what symptoms to look out for. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a fever, rash, and achey joints are symptoms of Zika, and more importantly, the ones that most Zika patients have reported in the past. Conjunctivitis is also common among Zika patients.
Achey joints can be a sign of lots of other things — even just extreme fatigue. But if you have persisting achey joints and live in a Zika affected area, or have another one of the symptoms, it's best to make an appointment with your doctor and get tested for the virus. That's always easier said than done when it comes to paying for a visit if you don't have health coverage. If you don't have insurance and think you need to be tested because you are showing symptoms, affordable health clinics like Planned Parenthood will test and work out a payment plan depending on your income.
Before you scurry to a doctor, though, remember this: Most people with Zika don't even show symptoms. When they do, the symptoms last for about 5-7 days and then pass. According to the CDC, most Zika patients showing symptoms don't get sick enough to even go to the hospital and it's not deadly. Those most at risk are currently pregnant women. The CDC recommends testing for anyone who is showing all symptoms, traveled to an area where Zika mosquitos are prevalent, or for anyone who has had intercourse with a partner who might have contracted it.
The connection between Zika virus and babies born with microcephaly or other neurological disorders has been proven. In Brazil this year, almost 5,000 babies were born with microcephaly. In Puerto Rico, 1,000 pregnant women are infected with the virus and health officials predict that that number will climb to around 10,000 by the end of the year.
But just because Zika is most dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses doesn't mean someone who doesn't fall under that category shouldn't get tested if they are showing symptoms or have traveled. The virus can be sexually transmitted, so partners of women of child bearing age should be tested if they think it's possible — at all — that they might be infected. The symptoms are pretty mild, and some might not display them even if they are infected with Zika, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. In short, don't freak out about achey joints — but pay attention to them.