What is Zika Virus?
The Zika Virus is a mosquito borne disease found mainly in warmer climates. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). In the general population the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. The symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A possible link between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome is being investigated. An article in The Lancet Medical Journal discusses this possible link. Link Between Zika and Rare Neurological Disorder Grows Stronger.
.However the virus can cause birth defects if it is contracted by pregnant women when the virus is transmitted to the unborn child. The CDC has reported that the virus can also spread through blood transfusions and sexual contact. Zika virus infection has been confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who had recently travelled to an area with local Zika virus transmission; testing for the male partners is pending. Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of Zika Virus?
- In the general population the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Severe reactions requiring hospitalization are uncommon. The most common symptoms are rash, fever, joint pain or red eyes. Other common symptons include headache and muscle pain.
- The symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- An increased instance of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, has been reported in Brazil. The CDC is working with the Brazil Ministry of Health to study any possible link with this disorder and Zika. More Information on Guillain-Barre and Zika.
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will develop the virus and become ill. The healthcare provider may recommend a blood test but it maybe inconclusive. If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provided which locations you have visited. There is no widely available test for Zika infection. Because it is closely related to dengue and yellow fever, it may cross-react with antibody tests for those viruses. To detect Zika, a blood or tissue sample from the first week in the infection must be sent to an advanced laboratory so the virus can be detected through sophisticated molecular testing.
Before 2015 The Zika Virus was found in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
In May of 2015 the Pan-American Health Organization found the virus in Brazil. It has since been found in many countries worldwide.
For the most updated information, the CDC publishes updated information on areas with active transmission on their website.
It has been advised the women of child-bearing age should avoid affected areas
The best way to prevent contracting this virus is to protect yourself against being bitten.
Travelers to these countries are advised to avoid or minimize mosquito bites by staying in screened or air-conditioned rooms or sleeping under mosquito nets, wearing insect repellent at all times and wearing long pants, long sleeves, shoes and hats. Using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellent are the best forms of prevention.
Containers that may catch rainwater should be emptied and covered to prevent the breeding of mosquitos.
It has been advised that pregnant women avoid travel to affected areas. If you develop symptoms of this virus, contact your healthcare provider.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. People should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids. You make take medications such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain but do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Zika and Pregnancy
Travel to any areas where Zika transmission is ongoing should be avoided by pregnant women in any trimester. The most dangerous time is thought to be during the first trimester – when some women do not realize they are pregnant. Experts do not know how the virus enters the placenta and damages the growing brain of the fetus.Pregnant women who travel to affected areas should talk to their doctor first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip. Zika virus infection has been confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who had recently travelled to an area with local Zika virus transmission; testing for the male partners is pending.
A pregnant woman who contracts Zika can pass the disease to her unborn child. Microcephaly, a birth defiect where a baby ls head is smaller than expected can be a result of this virus.Babies with microcephaly have unusually small heads. In roughly 15 percent of cases, a small head is just a small head, and there is no effect on the infant, according to Dr. Constantine Stratakis, a pediatric geneticist and a scientific director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
But in the remainder of cases, the infant’s brain may not have developed properly during pregnancy or may have stopped growing in the first years of life. These children may experience a range of problems, like developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss.
The consequences can vary widely from child to child. Pinpointing an underlying cause helps clinicians to advise parents about their newborn’s prognosis.
Genetic abnormalities are a common cause. Microcephaly can also be triggered by infections of the fetus, including German measles (also known as rubella), toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite found in undercooked contaminated meat and cat feces) and cytomegalovirus. .
Microcephaly may also result if a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, is severely malnourished or has diabetes. If the defect occurs in a child’s first years, it may be a result of a brain injury during labor.
There is no treatment for an unusually small head.
The Pan American Health Organization believes that the virus will spread locally in every country in the Americas except Canada and Chile. Here is the C.D.C.’s current list of countries and territories in which Zika virus is circulating. The latest updates are here.