Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that broke in Brazil’s Western Hemisphere – the first widely-known case was reported in May 2015. In fact, the country saw a total of 3000 cases reported in 2015 alone. The disease, however, has its roots in Uganda, where a particular species of monkey was infected with the virus, in 1947. The disease’s symptoms (in humans) were similar to the symptoms of dengue fever, which included rash, fever, conjunctivitis, and joint pain. The complications, however, weren’t as serious. In fact, the majority of adults affected by the disease cannot make out if they’ve been infected as the symptoms are not quite open. Zika is also linked with major brain problems in infected mothers’ unborn kids.
There aren’t effective vaccines or treatments devised yet to treat the disease; therefore, prevention is paramount. The prevention measures are more so important in the case of pregnant women living in affected areas. And pregnant women outside of the affected region are advised against traveling to the Zika virus-affected states. This traveling limitation also applies to men or non-pregnant women since they are also equally at risk of catching the virus.
As the disease is transferred through mosquitoes, the best strategy to ward off the virus is to not get bitten by the infected mosquito. For that, you must stay indoors in an air conditioned room or a space that has its doors and windows shut to mosquitoes. If you’d like to head outdoors, do so in the evening because the virus-carrying mosquitoes are active only during the day. Eliminating standing water sources, applying insect repellents, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and sleeping inside a mosquito net shall help you avoid mosquitoes.
Evidences indicate the virus is transmitted from an infected mosquito to humans. A specific species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti carries the virus. This mosquito can bite four to five people in quick succession, which means the disease can spread rather quickly.
Also, there have been multiple instances of the virus being transmitted through sexual activity. This form of transmission takes place when a non-infected individual has physical contact with a Zika virus-infected person – someone who has recently arrived or returned from the virus-affected country.
The virus can be confirmed by testing the infected person’s urine and serum samples. Typically, urine tends to exhibit the disease’s presence much later compared to serum. This means the virus’ presence in an infected person cannot be confirmed through urine tests if the individual has not been infected for more than 10 days.
As mentioned earlier, monkeys were the first to be affected by the virus. In humans, the infection gets characterized by headache, mild fever, conjunctivitis, retro-orbital pain, etc. A misdiagnosis is possible during the viremic or acute phase of the infection since some of the symptoms and signs are similar to influenza symptoms and signs.
Biologically, the virus’ presence is confirmed by detecting the virus RNA in the serum. However, laboratory-based diagnosis isn’t that easy due to the virus’ low acute phases and its cross-reactivity with other flaviviruses such as dengue.
At the moment, there isn’t any vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, which makes prevention the only cure. Those infected should relax and rest a lot. They must increase their fluid intake so that there is no dehydration issue. And in case the infected person is having fever and body pain, medications such as paracetamol and acetaminophen shall help.
Since the virus has been associated with microcephaly in infants, pregnant women who’ve been diagnosed with the disease should consider monitoring the baby’s anatomy and fetal growth every three to four weeks.