Zika virus has been making headlines lately, with over 800 cases reported in the United States (and 1,800 more in United States territories), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mosquito-transmitted virus is relatively harmless to most people, but it has been associated with birth defects in fetuses when contracted by pregnant women. It's a legitimate health concern, so you should definitely know what to do if you have Zika or suspect you may be showing a telltale symptom, like the Zika rash.
If you live in a Zika-affected area or recently traveled to one, a rash, fever, joint pain, or conjunctivitis are good signs that you may have contracted Zika. If you've developed symptoms, your best bet is to head to your doctor, regardless of whether or not you're pregnant. While there are currently no vaccinations or medicine to treat Zika, your doctor can administer a urine or blood test to determine if you actually have it.
If tests return positive and you are not pregnant, there isn't much to be done. Zika is mostly mild, and symptoms tend to last up to a week. Remain hydrated, rest, and take acetaminophen to reduce any fever or pain you experience.
If you are pregnant and tests show that you have contracted Zika virus, your doctor will likely want to monitor your status for a while. According to The New York Times, pregnant women who have tested positively for Zika (or even shown symptoms of the virus) should undergo a series of ultrasounds to check for signs of microcephaly or brain calcification during the fetus' development. Even if you haven't shown symptoms of Zika, but live in an affected area or have traveled to one, you should be tested at least twice for the virus.
Another important thing to keep in mind if you have contracted Zika is to protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially during your first week of the illness. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it can then spread the disease to anyone else it bites — so keeping yourself safe from mosquito bites helps prevent the spread of the virus to others, which is important as the United States tries to keep an epidemic at bay.
So, for yourself and others, head to a doctor if you show signs of Zika, like a bad rash or the aforementioned symptoms. If you can't make it to an appointment, you should still definitely make sure to protect yourself from mosquito bites to help prevent the spread.