Did you know? The same mosquito (Aedes) which causes Dengue and Chikunguenia (yellow fever), is now known to carry another epidemic-causing virus called Zika. The Zika virus is considered especially deadly because it can transmit from pregnant women to the babies who are then born with a birth defect known as Microcephaly.
First identified in Uganda in 1947, the Zika virus was discovered in a monkey in the Zika forest. In the current outbreak, the Zika virus infections started spreading in Brazil and and has hence spread to 20 Latin American countries. The number of reported cases of Zika Virus in Brazil has risen by 2,301% from 2014 to 2015 and has gripped the western world in fear. Although so far, there hasn’t been any reported cases of Zika virus in our country, India is susceptible to this infectious disease due to its climate. Since there is yet no vaccine to prevent or medicine to cure this disease, it has lead to panic in various parts of the world.
However, a sound awareness of this disease can help prevent it. After-all, it is a mosquito-borne disease like Dengue and basic protections against mosquito bites can take you a long way in prevention of the Zika virus.
What Causes Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is primarily spread through an infected Aedes mosquito, distinctive for their black and white markings, active mostly during dawn and dusk. There are also evidences that the virus may be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual contact and most significantly from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of Zika virus are not much different from viral fever and includes fever, rash and joint pain. In most cases, it is also observed that the infected person is affected with conjunctivitis. The symtoms are usually mild lasting from two to seven days. Most people recover completely without any serious complication.
Then What Is The Worry?
Microcephaly: When a pregnant woman is infected with the Zika virus, she may give birth to a baby with a serious birth defect called Microcephaly. Children affected with Microcephaly are born with a reduced head size and can face learning disability or even death if the brain doesn’t develop properly.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome: People affected with Zika virus can also develop the Guillain-Barre Syndrome whereby the immune system of the body attacks parts of the nervous system leading to paralysis or even death.
What Is The Cure?
Since there is no vaccine or anti-viral available yet, it is prevention which is better than cure in this case. Patients are advised to drink plenty of fluids and to avoid contact with mosquitoes. It is recommended to wear clothes with minimum exposure of bare skin, to use mosquito repellants and to keep doors and windows covered or screened. It is highly advisable to use mosquito nets if your neighbourhood is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Although there were outbreaks of Zika Virus before in parts of Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands, it has been successfully contained. However, since the last attack on Brazil, the Zika virus is spreading fast in other parts of the world. It is therefore advisable to be careful while travelling to Latin American countries and to keep your surroundings clean and dry to prevent breeding of mosquitoes.