The Zika virus disease is a mosquito-borne viral infection. It mainly occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world.
The Zika virus disease is a viral infection caused by the bite of an infected mosquito of the Aedes species. The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus, was identified in Uganda in 1947. The virus was later identified in humans in the year 1952 in Tanzania and Uganda. Outbreaks of the disease were then found to have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands.
A major outbreak was then recorded in the year 2007 and from then onwards the virus spread to America. Brazil reported a major outbreak of rash illness in 2015 which was later identified as the Zika virus. By July of the same year, the Zika virus infection was associated with the occurrence of Guillain Barre Syndrome. By the end of the year, Brazil also reported the association between the infection and microcephaly. Around 86 countries and territories have now reported evidence of the presence of Zika.
Most individuals who contract the Zika virus are either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The symptoms, if present, may show 3-14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. People may show the following symptoms if infected:
Fever: The infected person may develop a low-grade fever, frequently accompanied by chills.
Headaches: A fever may also bring along a persistent headache. While most people will have a dull, throbbing pain, some may experience sharp shooting pains.
Arthralgia: Arthralgia, or joint pain and stiffness, may be felt in the smaller joints such as the hand and feet. This may be one of the earliest symptoms to appear.
Myalgia: Another notable symptom of the Zika virus disease is myalgia, or muscle pain. People usually describe it as an unrelenting body ache. Pain in the joints and muscles gets intense with an increase in viral load.
Skin Rash: Individuals develop skin rashes with pigmented bumps at times. These rashes are accompanied by itchiness or tingling. The rash may begin in the trunk and spread to the face and limbs.
Conjunctivitis: Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is another symptom of the viral infection. In some cases, people develop a more serious condition called uvetis. This condition may end up in blindness.
Asthenia: Asthenia, or muscle weakness, is felt most acutely in the post-recovery stage. People infected with the Zika virus feel weakness, tiredness, and loss of strength for weeks after the illness.
The Zika virus is transmitted through the Aedes mosquito, the same type that carries dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. A mosquito can transmit this virus if it is infected after having bitten a person who already has Zika. Studies have shown that the virus can spread through sexual intercourse. Additionally, infected pregnant women can also pass the virus to the fetus. The virus has been found in blood, semen, saliva, urine, and fluids in the eye.
If contracted during pregnancy, the Zika virus may cause a miscarriage or microcephaly, which is a congenital brain condition. The virus can also cause neurological disorders like Guillain Barre syndrome. The infection is also believed to trigger myelitis and neuropathy.
The virus may also cause congenital Zika syndrome with the following birth defects.
- Severe microcephaly and a partially collapsed skull
- Eye damage
- Joint problems, limited motion
- Reduced body movement
- Brain damage and decreased brain tissue.
There is no treatment for the Zika virus, however, since the symptoms are mild in most cases, people can use over-the-counter medication for pain relief. Infected individuals must get plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids along with acetaminophen for fever and pain. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided.
According to the CDC, pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where there are reported outbreaks. Moreover, if a partner has lived or traveled in the area of an outbreak, sexual intercourse should be avoided or a condom should be used.
Individuals living in tropical areas must follow the following prevention methods:
Wear Protective Clothing: It is advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.
Mosquito Repellent: Repellents with at least 10 percent DEET are effective protection against mosquitoes. Clothing, shoes, bed netting, etc. can be coated with permethrin.
Well-Screened Houses: Places with air conditioning and windows and doors covered with screening are great ways to prevent mosquitoes from biting at home. If not available, bed nets should be used.
Mosquito Habitat: Reducing mosquito habitat around houses can also ensure protection. Mosquitoes breed in still water in places like flower pots used tires, and animal dishes. The water in these places must be changed frequently.
Using preventive measures can ensure safety from the Zika virus.