10 Facts You Should Know About the Zika Virus

5 min read

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus as a global public health emergency when the Zika virus spread to at least 34 countries and territories. WHO, also has stated that around 3 to 4 million people across America will be infected with the Zika virus disease in the forthcoming year. On the other hand, doctors are describing this event as a “pandemic in progress”.

As the infection starts to spread, it’s crucial for us to know these facts about the Zika virus. Here are 10 facts that you should be aware of.

10. How does the virus spread?

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito usually bites during the day time, but be warned they are known to bite at night as well. Aedes aegypti mosquitos are also vectors for other mosquito related diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya viruses.

The Zika virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. If the mother is infected with this virus, she can easily pass it on to her baby. There are no reports of transmitting the virus through breast feeding.

Others modes of transmission include sexual contact and blood transfusions.

9. Occurrence of Zika

ZIka was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Before the outbreak in 2015, the Zika virus was confined within the boundaries of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia. Now, the virus has made appearances in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

8. Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms are not apparent immediately and most people do not know that they have the disease as the symptoms are very mild. Common symptoms of Zika include joint pain, rash, fever, headache, muscle pain or conjunctivitis. The incubation period is still not known exactly. Moreover, experts say that 80% of the people who are infected will have no symptoms.

Zika virus is often suspected through symptoms and recent travel history. If he or she has travelled to areas where Zika virus is known to strive and has the Zika symptoms, they will be suspected for Zika virus infection. But only laboratory testing to locate the the RNA of the Zika virus can confirm diagnosis.

7. Treatment

You can treat the symptoms by having plenty of rest, preventing dehydration by consuming an adequate amount of fluids, taking medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or paracetamol for fever and pain. Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. There are no specific vaccines or medications to treat Zika for now.

6. Prevention

Methods of prevention primarily focus on not getting bit by the mosquito carrying virus in the first place. So standard mosquito prevention methods apply such as repellent creams and mosquito nets. This is of extreme importance when you are traveling to affected areas.

Wear clothing that covers most of your body, do not expose your arms and legs, and treat your clothes with permethrin. Make sure not to apply permethrin containing products directly on your skin.

It is crucial for one to empty and clean containers that contain water as mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Look around your house and find places where mosquitoes can breed, these may include used tires, flowers pots and roof gutters; places where stagnant water can collect, to be precise. You should help prevent mosquito breeding as a community for efforts to be extremely successful.

Repellant creams need to contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), IR3535 (3-[N-acetyl-N-butyl]-aminopropionic acid ethyl ester) or icaridin (1-piperidinecarboxylic acid, 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-methylpropylester). During an outbreak, local authorities may carry out the spraying of insecticides in your neighborhood.

Travelers should adhere to rules regarding prevention in order to protect themselves from the virus.

5. Travel Alerts

The center for disease control (CDC) has released a travel alert for certain countries that have ongoing Zika virus cases. Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are the countries that have received a travel alert.

According to the CDC and WHO (the world health organization), the Zika virus is being spread locally in the following countries-

Aruba, Barbados, Bolivia, Bonaire, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and Cape Verde.

4. Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you need to delay any travel to places where the Zika virus is spreading. If there are no way to forego travel plans, talk to a your physician before making any arrangements. Adhere to strict steps and methods to prevent mosquito bites during your stay at Zika virus prone regions. If your male partner has been to or lives in an area where Zika virus is spreading, use condoms before any sexual contact or do not have any sexual intercourse during your pregnancy.

If you are planning on getting pregnant, before you travel to areas with travel alerts, make sure to speak with your doctor about concerns and issues of the Zika virus and its adverse effects. Adhere to steps that will prevent mosquito bites religiously.

3. Unborn Babies and Microcephaly

Unborn babies are said to be more at risk. The Zika virus, can be transmitted from the mother to the child during pregnancy, which can cause Microcephaly. Microcephaly is a congenital condition that is associated with incomplete brain development which is characterized by an abnormal smallness of the head, mental retardation, delays in speech, movement and growth.

2. How long are people infectious for?

Evidence suggests that the virus can be spread from one person to another via mosquitoes in the first week of infection. The virus is said to persist in semen for two weeks. As a result, some countries have advised on safe sex proceedings and placed a ban on blood donations for as far as a month, after one has been to countries where the Zika virus is currently being spread. If the person has developed the symptoms of the infection, the ban on blood donations is longer than a month.

1. What is being done about the virus?

Researchers are focused on creating a vaccine for the Zika virus. There is also talk of a clinical trial that are currently underway.

Marcelo Castro, the Brazilian Health Minister at the time, has stated that a new testing kit that will have the ability to identify the infection quickly is being developed.

Researchers are also looking into genetically modified sterile mosquitoes that will help to reduce the mosquito population by 90%. The mosquito will pass on a gene that will kill the offspring of the Zika spreading mosquito, and as a result stop the spread of it.

In the meantime, local health authorities are implementing mosquito control by spraying insecticides.

What we know of the Zika Virus:

  • Zika is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito and mainly bites humans at night.
  • Zika virus can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.
  • There are no vaccines for the Zika virus.
  • Outbreaks are likely to continue.

What we do not know:

Safe times to travel to an area with Zika cases during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is bitten, the likelihood of getting infected with the virus and passing it to the child are all not known, as of yet.

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