Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Zika Virus – What You Need To Know

February 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Articles

zika misq imagesThe Zika virus was first identified in Ugandan rhesus monkeys in 1947, and was reported in humans 5 years later. The Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that is spread through bodily fluids. There have been a number of outbreaks of the virus since it was first identified, the most recent being that of 2015 which affected, and continues to affect Africa, and South America.

The Zika virus is transmitted, to people via the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. The mosquito species, Aedes, which spreads the Zika virus, is also the same one that spreads dengue fever.

Areas with Zika virus
Outbreaks have occurred every 10 years or so since the virus was first identified. These outbreaks occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The most recent outbreak occurred in 2015, when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) confirmed cases of Zika virus infections in Brazil. Since May, there have been numerous other cases of the virus across Africa and South America. Some cases have also been reported in North America and Europe- but these are likely in travellers. The Zika virus will continue to spread, and unfortunately, it is almost impossible to know how and where the virus will go next.

Not everyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito will become ill- i.e. develop the Zika virus. In fact only 1 in 5 people will display symptoms. The incubation period, i.e. the time from being bitten to getting symptoms, of the Zika virus is not currently known, however it is most likely about a week. The most common symptoms of the virus are usually mild, and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms last only a few days and do not usually result in hospitalisations. There are also very few cases of people dying from the virus.

Zika and Pregnancy
A number of reports of congenital microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant have been noted. Although the relationship is not scientifically proven, it is likely, and therefore pregnant women should take extra caution in areas where there is active Zkia transmission. Microcephaly is a birth defect in which the developing baby’s head does not grow as expected. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. This can result in a number of other conditions including mental retardation. Microcephaly is a lifelong condition with no known cure or standard treatment. The severity of microcephaly can range from mild to severe, and as a result of this, the treatment options range as well.

If an individual, who lives in an area where the Zika virus is found, or has recently travelled to such an area, develops a combination of the symptoms mentioned above, then the best course of action is to seek help from a health care provider. Blood tests will be taken to determine if the virus is Zika. It is important to be properly diagnosed because the Zika virus, although not serious, is similar in its presentation to the more serious dengue and chikungunya viruses which are spread by the same mosquitoes.

At the moment there are no vaccinations available to prevent the Zika virus, and there are no medications to treat infections. Instead the only way forward is to treat the symptoms with rest, prevention of dehydration by drinking lots of water, and pain relief. In order to prevent spread of Zika to other people, do the best you can to ensure you are not bitten by mosquitoes for at least the first week of your illness.



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