Zika virus is a new emerging disease on the rise, and here are 5 things you need to know about it.
In May 2015, the first local transmission of the Zika Virus (ZIKV) has been reported in Brazil, South America. 7 months later, the virus has locally spread to other South American countries such as Colombia, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. At present, the Latin American countries continue to experience Zika outbreak. Brazil even declared a Pregnancy ban for at least two years, to ensure that microcephaly cases among newborn, a serious complication of the disease, can be avoided.
The state of Pernambuco in Brazil was the first to declare a state of emergency after having more than 2000 babies born with microcephaly in December 2015.
It was then that CDC has linked this condition to the mothers getting infected by Zika virus during pregnancy.
The discovery of the spread of the virus to South America is quite interesting due to the fact that since its discovery in 1947, Zika has mostly been contained in Africa and Asia where it is locally found. This suggests the role of traveling in the spread of diseases as well. Locally the Zika strain may be present in Asia and Africa but complications like this are not reported. Further research even up to genetic level and immunity and resistance of Asians and Africans to the disease and the susceptibility of Westerners must be look into.
But for now, what are the 5 things we need to know about this emerging virus?
Zika Virus can be transmitted by the Aedes and Albopictus mosquitoes, the same vectors for Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria. Due to the abundance of the mosquito vector, these tropical diseases have the ability to infect very rapidly causing massive outbreaks which is what we are seeing with Dengue and Malaria before, and being seen in Zika now.
As a new emerging viral infection, no known cure and vaccine have been developed as of yet. Most viral hemorrhagic fevers where Zika is categorized are self-limiting and the course of clinical management only involved symptom management. There are no antivirals or medicines for it. Management includes fluid replacement therapy, treating fever and pains as the only course of action. Research is being done if a vaccine against it can be produced.
As mentioned above there is no treatment but it can be prevented. Prevent yourself from getting mosquito bites and you can be safe from Zika and other Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. Use of mosquito repellents are highly advised, as well as cleaning up surroundings to prevent mosquitoes from propagating. If travelling to infected areas is inevitable, wear long sleeved shirts and full length pants and spray clothes with repellents. Mothers should be most aware and careful to prevent mosquito bites due to severe consequences to their unborn babies. Refer to the map below where Zika virus is currently found.
Since it is the same category as Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria, Zika presents almost the same signs and symptoms. The symptoms occur 3 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The common symptoms include fever, rashes, joint pains, red eyes, muscle and eye pains, headache and vomiting, which can be mistaken as the symptoms of other diseases. Microcephaly and brain damage in babies are the most severe complications if mothers become infected during pregnancy.
The most important question of all, is this emerging new virus deadly? Fortunately NO DEATHS FROM Zika virus in infected adults has been reported yet. So far only acute manifestations have been found and no severe complications have been documented on infected adults. But, the same is not true for pregnant mothers and their babies. Microcephaly and brain defect of babies born to mothers infected by Zika virus during their pregnancy have been reported resulting to abnormal growth and development and possibly even low survival rate for the baby
Protect yourself, awareness is key. Don’e let mosquitoes bite you and your family.
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