Zika virus and complications: Questions and answers

Online Q&A
Updated 19 September 2016

Summary of the situation

The rise in the spread of Zika virus in Brazil has been accompanied by an unprecedented rise in the number of children being born with unusually small heads—identified as microcephaly. In addition, several countries, including Brazil, reported a steep increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome—a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death. Based on research, there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Zika virus

Updated! How do people catch Zika virus?

Where does Zika virus occur?

Can El Niňo have an effect on Zika transmission?

Can the Aedes mosquito travel from country to country and region to region?

What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease?

How is Zika virus disease diagnosed?

How is Zika virus disease treated?

Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio, 2016

What are the risks facing athletes and visitors attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil in 2016 with regard to the current Zika outbreak?

What can athletes and visitors do to protect themselves?

Should pregnant women attend the Rio 2016 Games? And what about their partners?

Mosquito protection

Updated! What can people do to protect themselves from mosquito bites?

How can pregnant women protect themselves from mosquito bites?

Mosquito surveillance (monitoring)

What role does mosquito surveillance play in addressing Zika virus?

New! What are the differences between the Aedes and the Culex mosquitoes?

Updated! Why is WHO focusing on the Aedes mosquito as the primary vector for Zika? Is enough known to warrant the current design of the vector control program?

Is there national or international research underway into the Zika virus to look at all the possible causes?

Where can I find more information about mosquito surveillance?

Sexual transmission

What can people do to be protected from sexual transmission of Zika virus?

What should women do if they have been exposed to unprotected sex but do not wish to become pregnant because of possible infection with Zika?


What should people travelling to Zika-affected areas do?

Guillain-Barré syndrome, microcephaly and other neurological disorders

Is Zika virus a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome?

What events led WHO to investigate a causal link?

Are there other explanations for microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Updated! Is there a link between Zika and other neurological disorders?

What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?

What is microcephaly?


Can women transmit Zika virus to their fetuses during pregnancy or childbirth?

Can mothers with Zika infection breastfeed their baby?

What should women do if they wish to postpone pregnancy because they are worried about microcephaly?

How can women manage their pregnancy in the context of Zika virus and complications?

Zika virus response

What is the WHO response to Zika?

What are WHO recommendations to countries?

How can the Zika response keep up with all the new research being published?

References: i

Besnard M, Lastere S, Teissier A, Cao-Lormeau V, Musso D. Evidence of perinatal transmission of Zika virus, French Polynesia, December 2013 and February 2014. Eurosurveillance 2014 Apr 3;19(13):20751. Available from: http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20751

Dick GWA. Zika virus. II. Pathogenicity and physical properties. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 1952 Sep;46(5):521–34. Available from: http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=reference&D=emed1aa&NEWS=N&AN=12995441



Zika virus - Questions and answers (Q&A)

Related links

Information in Portuguese

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