Zika Virus: Transmission, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prevention

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Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus and an emerging disease in today’s world. This disease can be transmitted by the bite of daytime active Aedes mosquitos. It was first reported in Uganda in 1947 in the Rhesus monkey. It was subsequently reported in humans in 1952 in Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania. Its name comes from Zika forest of Uganda. Till date, the outbreaks of this virus have been recorded in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Pacific. Since its discovery, the cases were only reported from African and Asian countries but from 2007-2016, this virus spread in American and Pacific countries, leading to the epidemic in 2015. In October 2015, Brazil reported an association between this virus infection and microcephaly. Currently, the cases of Zika is reported from many countries.

Transmission of Zika virus

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito i.e Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes are even responsible for spreading the diseases like dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya etc. They are daytime biters; prefer to live near the people (indoor and outdoor) and only female mosquito’s bite.

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Zika virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual contact, body fluids and through mother to fetus during her pregnancy or around the time of birth.

Symptoms of zika virus

The incubation period of Zika virus is not clear but it is estimated to be few days. The symptoms are mild in the few days of infection and are similar to dengue. These symptoms include fever, headache, rash, conjunctivitis, joint pain, muscle pain, and vomiting. The severe symptoms are not common in Zika virus. It has severe effect on pregnant women because it affects the developing fetus as well as child borne with microcephaly (a condition where their head is too small).

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Diagnosis of Zika virus

Infection with Zika virus may be suspected based on its symptoms and travel history of the infected person. It can only be confirmed by laboratory tests of blood and other body fluids such as saliva, semen, and urine.

Treatment of Zika virus

This disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment. Treatments for Zika virus symptoms include getting adequate rest, plenty of drinking fluids, and treating pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen then the person should seek medical support.

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Prevention of Zika virus

There is no vaccine available for this virus; hence, prevention is the best medicine for Zika virus diseases. The best way to prevent is to protect our self and our family from mosquito bites. This can be done by:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Reducing the breeding areas of mosquitos such as buckets, garbage cans, house gutters; pool covers, tyres, drums etc. by eliminating all the stagnant water in and around houses.
  • Keeping mosquitos out of a home by using screens in the windows and doors, repairing any holes in the screen and using air condition when available.
  • Sleeping under mosquito net and using insect repellent
  • Preventing sexual transmission by using condoms
  • By giving special attention and help to those who may not be able to protect themselves such as children, sick, elderly etc.

Pregnant women should be especially cautious when they are traveling or residing in the Zika outbreak regions. If they get infected with Zika virus in any trimester it may result in microcephaly (incomplete brain development) in their baby. So, pregnant women should take preventive measures or consider postponing traveling to an area with ongoing this virus transmission.

Prakash Bhatt

Prakash Raj Bhatt Maharajgunj Medical Campus, Institute of Medicine Bachelor in Public Health

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