10 Facts You Need to Know about the Zika Virus

By Margaret Cohen, Senior Manager Online Fundraising and Engagement, PSI

You’ve probably heard about Zika virus. But what is it exactly? Who is at risk? And what can you do to help?

PSI has extensive experience helping families in the developing world overcome their most pressing health challenges. Here is what we know about Zika virus and how you can help.

  1. The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and people. Typically, mosquitoes spread the virus. But there is evidence the virus may be sexually transmitted from someone who has been infected to his sexual partner.
  2. The mosquitoes that carry Zika are active during the daytime, so malaria-fighting bed nets are not effective in stopping infection. Reducing breeding sites and using insecticides are currently two of the most effective ways to prevent the disease.
  3. Symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually mild, typically begin a few days after being bitten, and usually finish in 2 to 7 days. Eighty percent of people who become infected never have symptoms. In those who do, the most common are fever, rash and conjunctivitis.
  4. U.S. travelers are bringing the virus back with them. These imported cases happen when a person is infected elsewhere and then visits or returns to the United States.
  5. There’s no vaccine to protect against the Zika virus, but researchers are working on one. Once a person becomes infected with the virus they usually develop immunity to future infections.
  6. Researchers are studying the potential link between the Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in their babies. Microcephaly is a birth defect that impairs brain development and can cause mild to severe cognitive delays, learning disabilities and impaired motor functions. The condition is marked by an abnormally small head.
  7. Until a link is confirmed, it is crucial that women who are pregnant strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  8. The CDC recommends that pregnant women in any trimester consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. The most recent travel advisories can be found on their website.
  9. Several Latin American countries have urged women not to get pregnant for up to two years, in an attempt to avoid birth defects believed to be caused by Zika. However, no government has announced plans to increase access or remove barriers to contraception.
  10. PSI is already working in affected areas including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. We are supporting national responses led by the Ministries of Health. And we will continue helping men and women access contraception so that they can make their own decision about when — and whether — to become pregnant. If you would like to support our work helping women and their families stay healthy, consider making a tax-deductible gift of support.

Credit (banner): James Gathany, USCDCP

Sign up to
Receive Updates

Donate to
Support Our Work



The Future of Work

With overarching commitments to flexibility in our work, and greater wellbeing for our employees, we want to ensure PSI is positioned for success with a global and holistic view of talent. Under our new “work from (almost) anywhere,” or “WFAA” philosophy, we are making the necessary investments to be an employer of record in more than half of U.S. states, and consider the U.S. as one single labor market for salary purposes. Globally, we recognize the need to compete for talent everywhere; we maintain a talent center in Nairobi and a mini-hub in Abidjan. PSI also already works with our Dutch-based European partner, PSI Europe, and we’re creating a virtual talent center in the UK.


Meaningful Youth Engagement

PSI is firmly committed to the meaningful engagement of young people in our work. As signatories of the Global Consensus Statement on Meaningful Adolescent & Youth Engagement, PSI affirms that young people have a fundamental right to actively and meaningfully engage in all matters that affect their lives. PSI’s commitments aim to serve and partner with diverse young people from 10-24 years, and we have prioritized ethics and integrity in our approach. Read more about our commitments to the three core principles of respect, justice and Do No Harm in the Commitment to Ethics in Youth-Powered Design. And read more about how we are bringing our words to action in our ICPD+25 commitment, Elevating Youth Voices, Building Youth Skills for Health Design.


Zero Tolerance for Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking

PSI works to ensure that its operations and supply chains are free from slavery and human trafficking. Read more about this commitment in our policy statement, endorsed by the PSI Board of Directors.



Since 2017, PSI has been a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, a commitment to align strategies and operations with universal principles of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Read about PSI’s commitment to the UN Global Compact here.


Environmental Sustainability

The health of PSI’s consumers is inextricably linked to the health of our planet. That’s why we’ve joined the Climate Accountability in Development as part of our commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Read about our commitment to environmental sustainability.


Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity

PSI does not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, marital status, genetic information, disability, protected veteran status or any other classification protected by applicable federal, state or local law. Read our full affirmative action and equal employment opportunity policy here.


Zero Tolerance for Discrimination and Harassment

PSI is committed to establishing and maintaining a work environment that fosters harmonious, productive working relationships and encourages mutual respect among team members. Read our policy against discrimination and harassment here.

PSI is committed to serving all health consumers with respect, and strives for the highest standards of ethical behavior. PSI is dedicated to complying with the letter and spirit of all laws, regulations and contractual obligations to which it is subject, and to ensuring that all funds with which it is entrusted are used to achieve maximum impact on its programs. PSI provides exceptionally strong financial, operational and program management systems to ensure rigorous internal controls are in place to prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse and ensure compliance with the highest standards. Essential to this commitment is protecting the safety and well-being of our program consumers, including the most vulnerable, such as women and children. PSI maintains zero tolerance for child abuse, sexual abuse, or exploitative acts or threats by our employees, consultants, volunteers or anyone associated with the delivery of our programs and services, and takes seriously all complaints of misconduct brought to our attention.


Diversity and Inclusion

PSI affirms its commitment to diversity and believes that when people feel respected and included they can be more honest, collaborative and successful. We believe that everyone deserves respect and equal treatment regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural background or religious beliefs. Read our commitment to diversity and inclusion here. Plus, we’ve signed the CREED Pledge for Racial and Ethnic Equity. Learn more.


Gender Equality

PSI affirms gender equality is a universal human right and the achievement of it is essential to PSI’s mission. Read about our commitment to gender equality here.


01 #PeoplePowered

02 Breaking Taboos

03 Moving Care Closer to Consumers

04 Innovating on Investments

Let's Talk About Sex