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Zika Virus Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Disclaimer: Risk group, biosafety level, and all other precautions noted here are subject to change after a risk assessment by EHS.


Agent Type Risk Group Biosafety Level Animal Housing Biosafety Level
Virus  RG-2 BSL-2 ABSL-2

Agent Characteristics 

Risk Group: RG-2 associated with human disease, rarely serious; preventive or therapeutic interventions often available.

Agent Type: Virus 

Description: Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe brain defects.

Host Range: Mosquitos (Aedes albopictus); Primates     Host Shedding: Blood, Urine, Sexual contact

Route of Exposure to Humans: Arthropod Vectors, Mucous Membranes, Vertical Transmission, Percutaneous, Broken skin

Infectious Dose: Unknown                                       Incubation Period: 3-14 days

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, headache, dehydration, weight loss, lethargy)
  • Cutaneous symptoms (i.e. skin lesions, rash)
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms (i.e. joint and muscle pain)
  • Reproductive Health concerns (i.e. abortion, fetal abnormalities)

Immunizations: None available                         Prophylaxis*: None Available

*Formal medical advice is obtained during medical consultations with Cornell Health or primary healthcare provider as needed.

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

Less than 3 days

 1:10 bleach Dilution

70% Ethanol

2% paraformaldehyde; 2% glutaraldehyde; 60 minutes UV light (40 mwatt/cm2 : 254nm); temperature ≥ 60°C

For more guidance on disinfection see:  disinfectant selection.

Laboratory Hazards 

  • High energy-creating activities (centrifugation, sonication, high pressure systems, vortexing, tube cap popping)
  • Handling of sharps (needles, scalpels, microtome blades, broken glass, etc.)
  • Splash/droplet-creating activities (shaking incubators, liquid culturing, mechanical pipetting)
  • Equipment contamination
  • Exposed skin/uncovered wounds

Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) History: None reported to date.

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2


Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • Eye Protection
  • Single gloves
  • Snap-front lab coat with cinch cuffs

Waste Management: Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Shipping Guidance: Refer to EHS Biological Materials Shipping 

Animal Vivarium Guidance

Animal Housing Biosafety Level (ABSL): ABSL-2

Animal Biosecurity: Information not available

Perform InoculationsBiosafety Cabinet

Change CagesBiosafety Cabinet

Exposure and Spill Procedures 

Mucous Membranes: Flush eyes, mouth, or nose for 15 minutes at an eyewash station.See: responding to exposures.

Other Exposures: Wash with soap and water for 15 minutes (open wounds, sores, etc.) or a minimum of 20 seconds for areas with intact skin. See:  responding to exposures.

Small Spills: Notify others working in the lab. Evacuate area and allow 30 minutes for aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply disinfectant, working from the perimeter toward the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials. See:  spill cleanup

Large Spills: Request assistance from the EHS Spill Team by calling CUPD dispatch. Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone.

Incident Reporting: Immediately report the incident to supervisor and complete the EHS online injury/illness report as soon as possible.

Medical Follow-Up:

  • For students, seek medical attention at Cornell Health or local primary care provider. Call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24-hour phone consultation line) or a local urgent care. 
  • For faculty and staff, seek medical evaluation with a local primary care provider or urgent care. Cornell Health does not see employees for post-exposure care. 
  • Emergencies: Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone. 
Cornell EHS would like to thank Emory University for the use of their Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS) format and some content. 

More Information


  1. Questions about Zika. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated October 17, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2017.
  2. Risk Group Database. American Biological Safety Association. Accessed February 6, 2017
  3. Zika Virus: For Laboratories. Center for Disease control and Prevention. Updated July 25, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2017.
  4. Laboratory Safety when working with Zika Virus. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated July 25, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2017.
  5. Lessler J, Ott CT, Carcelen AC, et al. Times to key events in Zika virus infection and implications for blood donation: a systematic review. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2016;94(11):841-849. doi:10.2471/BLT.16.174540.
  6. Müller JA, Harms M, Schubert A, et al. Inactivation and Environmental Stability of Zika Virus. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2016;22(9):1685-1687. doi:10.3201/eid2209.160664.