Zika is a virus that is closely related to dengue fever and is also spread by mosquito bites. Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. Currently, all cases of Zika diagnosed in Australia were caught overseas.
80% of people do not realise that they have been infected and those that do only experience a very mild infection without any complications. Symptoms usually appear about 3 to 12 days after being infected and include a low grade fever, conjunctivitis, joint pain, and a rash. They only last a few days and get better without any complications.
However, the current outbreak in the Americas (particularly in Brazil) has been linked to concerning birth defects in pregnant women. Due to the transmission of the virus through the placenta in the first trimester, some babies are born with microcephaly (small brain and head) and other neurological complications. Infections later in pregnancy have been linked to small birth weight.
People living in or visiting countries that are affected by Zika virus are at increased risk of infection. Refer to the Department of Health for a list of affected countries. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-zika-countries.htm
Pregnant women, or those planning to become pregnant, should undertake an individual risk assessment with a doctor prior to travelling to an infected area. Those planning pregnancy should delay pregnancy until at least 8 weeks after they return, and at least 6 months if their male partner is diagnosed with a Zika virus infection as there have been some isolated cases of transmission through sexual activity.
There is no vaccine for Zika virus. Preventing infection is essential, and relies on avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes in countries where Zika virus occurs. Safe sex practices are also important in preventing sexual transmission through sperm.
If you have returned within the last two weeks from travel to a Zika virus affected country and become unwell, you should see a doctor and mention your overseas travel.
Information sourced from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-zika-factsheet-basics.htm