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How To Identify A Zika Rash? Signs You Should Watch For This Summer

Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Zika virus. It's been at the forefront of so many conversations these days. Mothers worried about their little ones. Pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant especially. Politicians, scientists, medical professionals. Even some Olympic athletes, people who have worked their whole lives to get to the Olympics, are considering changing their plans out of a very real Zika fear. While it's obviously important to avoid the Zika virus, it's equally important to educate yourself about the telltale symptoms of Zika — like how to identify a Zika rash.

A rash is one of the known symptoms of Zika, an airborne virus spread through the bite of an Aedes variety mosquito. The virus can also be sexually transmitted by an infected male, and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby in utero. While the CDC reports that the virus is usually mild in healthy adults, it can cause serious neurological defects in unborn children like microcephaly (a condition when the brain does not grow to full size) and Guillan-Barre syndrome (an illness that weakens the nervous system, which could cause muscle weakness and/or paralysis). The symptoms are similar to two other airborne viruses spread by the Aedes mosquito, dengue fever and chikungunya, and can present themselves to an infected person as being almost flu-like. So how does one tell the difference between a regular rash and a Zika rash?

According to a report by NBC News, an unidentified man returned from a holiday in Puerto Rico in February and began noticing some changes in his body after three days or so. Dr. Amit Garg of Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York was one of the physicians caring for the patient. He told NBC that the patient was experiencing a headache and lethargy first and foremost. After three days, he noticed a rash.

The rash presents with raised, red bumps and can feel itchy and uncomfortable, similar to measles, in some cases, or scarlet fever in others. The rash often starts on the face and spreads, but every patient is different. The rash will disappear once the virus has healed, so infected patients shouldn't worry about long-term effects.

Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images
RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 02: Dr. Stella Guerra performs physical therapy on an infant born with microcephaly at Altino Ventura Foundation on June 2, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. The Brazilian city of Recife and surrounding Pernambuco state remain the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, which has now spread to many countries in the Americas. A group of health experts recently called for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be postponed or cancelled due to the Zika threat but the WHO (World Health Organization) rejected the proposal. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

So if you're experiencing a rash that:

  • Looks red and bumpy (or red spots that are flat with some bumps)
  • Appears to be made up of individual bumps that are grouped tightly together so they look like one large rash
  • Seems to have appeared out of nowhere
  • Is itchy and irritating

... consider getting in touch with your medical professional to be tested for the Zika virus.

Otherwise, prevention is clearly the best policy. Avoid standing water, use an insect repellent with DEET this summer, and wear loose, light colored clothing with long sleeves.