Zika Virus

We have heard enough of diseases which are spread by mosquitoes. These diseases are considered serious and so catches immediate attention for treatment. The mosquitoes are well known for transmitting viruses from one person to another. One such harmful virus is the Zika virus. Unlike other viruses, the zika virus is a deadly virus.

In this article, we will learn more about the zika virus, its symptoms, treatments, and prevention methods. In due course, we will also come to know how deadly the virus is!

If a pregnant woman is infected by this zika virus, then it causes birth defects in babies born to those women. The babies are born with underdeveloped heads or brain damage. Zika virus is often linked to the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition in which the immune system affects the nerves. The virus mainly spreads through mosquitoes although there are cases of sexual transmission.

Fortunately, the virus isn’t very common to Asia. The places vulnerable to zika virus are the United States, South Florida, and Mexico.

What is zika? How do you catch it?

The zika virus was first identified in Uganda and is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. This mosquito is responsible for carrying viruses that cause dengue fever, yellow fever & chikungunya virus. The mosquito first bites the infected person and then spreads the virus to other people it bites. Thus the mosquito acts as a carrier of zika virus. Do you wonder how zika is transmitted through sex?

A person who has traveled to an area where an outbreak of zika virus occurred, got the virus and could have transmitted the virus to the sex partner who has not traveled. In fact, infected pregnant women can transfer the virus on to their fetus.

Recent studies show that virus may be present in the bloodstream, saliva, semen, urine or even the fluid in the eye.

Here is a small case study for you. A person was infected with zika virus without traveling or coming into sexual contact. Do you wonder how?  A zika patient who was infected by the virus a few months ago and was under treatment. The caregiver of this patient happen to come in contact with the tears and sweat of the zika patient. Lab tests proved that the virus is transmitted via sweat or tears of the patient.

What are the symptoms of zika?

The majority of the people who are infected by zika virus will certainly have no symptoms al all. Only 1 in 5 with the virus will exhibit the symptoms. But the sad part is that most people won’t know that they have it. The disease can cause fever, rashes, joint pain, redness in the white of the eye (conjunctivitis or pink eye).

The symptoms can appear anytime with 3 to 14 days after the first bite from the infected mosquito. The symptoms if appeared will last for few days or weeks. These symptoms are similar to those appearing for other infections like dengue fever, skin rashes, muscle pain, headache, malaise, etc.

Some of the commonly reported symptoms are listed below:

  • Itching all over the body
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Lower back pain
  • Red eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Joint and muscle pain

If you notice these symptoms developing, especially if you are in a place prone to zika virus then immediately consult your doctor.  A pregnant woman who has zika virus or symptoms at any point during the pregnancy should be tested for zika.

Once the person is infected with zika virus, then he/she has to be protected from other infections as well.

It is recommended that pregnant women should:

  • ¨ Postpone non-essential travel to places that are at high risk of zika virus.
  • ¨ Consider postponing non-essential to areas at moderate risk of zika virus transmission until after pregnancy.

If you travel to areas that are highly affected by zika virus then you can reduce the risk of infection by applying mosquito repellent and wearing loose clothing that fully covers your arms and legs.

To reduce the risk of infection and to avoid being bitten by an Aedes mosquito, you can follow the below tips.

  • Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET ( N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). This can be used in pregnant woman and breastfeeding women in concentrations of 50% whereas in infants, children and older people it can be used in concentrations of 45-50%.
  • Wear loose clothing that makes you feel comfortable and also protects from mosquito bites.
  • Sleeping under a mosquito net is preferred especially in areas where malaria is also at risk.

How is zika treated?

Till date, there is no proper treatment for zika. However, people with symptoms will do well with the over-the-counter- medicines which will heal their pain and aches. The doctors recommend the zika patients take a lot of rest, drink plenty of water or other fluids to prevent dehydration and take acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. Aspirin or other nonsteroidal drugs should not be taken to avoid the risk of bleeding. As of now, there is no vaccination for zika. The National Institute of Health is testing one for humans.

How are you tested for zika?

Basically, there are two tests for zika. One test will look for the pieces of genetic code of the virus in people with active infections. But this test does not work once the body clears the infection. This takes about 2 weeks after the symptoms appear.

Since 80% of the people with zika won’t know that they are affected by this virus nor do they have any symptoms of being infected by the virus.  Another test will look for the proteins called antibodies which are made by the immune system to fight against the virus. This test can identify the antibodies in the blood up to 3 months after a person is infected. But this test isn’t specific. Sometimes it may mistakenly show a positive result for zika even if the person is infected with dengue or chikungunya.

Can zika lead to other health conditions?

Zika is often linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. Often this will lead to partial or complete paralysis. Usually starting with legs and is temporary in many cases. Studies often show a link between the syndrome and the zika. this illness is mostly seen in areas such as France & Brazil.

How can I prevent zika?

If you cannot avoid traveling in the affected areas then better protect yourselves from mosquito bites by applying repellents throughout the day. It is better to wear long sleeves shirts and long pants wherever you go.

These mosquitoes are very aggressive during the day. So even you apply sunscreens don’t forget to apply repellents on top of it.

Some of the complications zika virus can also cause health disorders.WHO  has concluded that zika virus is the main cause of congenital brain abnormalities including microcephaly. Zika virus is also a trigger of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Advice for Pregnant Women:

  • Discuss your travel plans with your general physician.
  • If your travel is unavoidable then you will have to take extra care to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
  • If you are in areas that are prone to zika virus, then use condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Zika virus is most likely to be detected by currently available tests when symptoms are present. If you are currently experiencing Zika symptoms, contact your General physician, who will decide whether investigations are necessary. Investigations might include a blood test and/or an ultrasound test if you are pregnant.

Zika virus & blood donation:

The national health service has recently declared that people who are at high risk of zika virus infection should wait at least for 28 days before transmitting blood. To know more details about blood transmission after a zika infection contact the doctors at free doctor helpline.

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