The Zika fever is caused by Zika virus. The virus is mainly spread by the by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The Aedes aegypti is commonly found in the tropical and subtropical Americas, while Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have become widespread up to the Great Lakes area of the United States.
The Zika virus, on its own, doesn't seem to harm most of its victims. However, there is increasing evidence that the Zika virus infection could cause serious brain damage to fetuses and in some rare cases, cause neurological problems in adults.
Zika virus cannot be transmitted from person to person. They can only be infected by mosquito bites. It is a mosquito-borne disease, which means that if a mosquito bites a person infected with Zika virus and then bites a second person, that second person could contract the disease.
Main Article: Zika virus Symptoms
Most of the victims affected by Zika virus do not experience any symptoms.
Symptoms of Zika fever are similar to the symptoms of other arbovirus infections like dengue fever or chikungunya. However, the symptoms of Zika fever are milder in form and usually last two to seven days. About 60-80% of Zika fever cases are asymptomatic.
The following are the clinical symptoms found in patients contracted with Zika fever. They last for 2-7 days.
- low-grade fever
- skin rash (exanthema)
- joint pains
- transient arthritis/joint pain, mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet
- maculopapular rash that often starts on the face and then spreads throughout the body
The disease symptoms of Zika fever are so mild that 4 out of 5 patients do not suffer any symptoms and won't even know they have it.
Pregnant women with Zika virus infection has a suspected link with newborn microcephaly by mother-to-child transmission. Microcephaly is the condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads. This symptom is particularly noticed in Brazil and French Polynesia. Though Microcephaly is strongly suspected to be a symptom of infection of Zika virus, it is not scientifically proved.
The following conditions are not conclusively linked to Zika virus.
Main Article: Guillain–Barré syndrome
A serious and rare neurological condition called Guillame-Barre Syndrome may be caused by Zika virus. The condition could also be caused by different kinds of infection. Guillame-Barre Syndrome can lead to paralysis. Reports of this condition has risen in areas where the Zika virus has been reported. It is specifically seen clusters of this in El Salvador, Brazil and French Polynesia.
The symptoms of Guillame-Barre Syndrome include muscular weakness and tingling in the arms and legs. Severe complications can occur if the respiratory muscles are affected, requiring hospitalisation
Most people affected with Guillame-Barre Syndrome will recover, although some may continue to experience effects such as weakness.
The Guillame-Barre Syndrome is suspected to have been caused by Zika virus as there was a sharp increase of GBS in French Polynesia after its 2013 Zika outbreak. The GBS cases were also reported in Brazil.
Researchers have found Zika virus in the spinal fluid of an 81-year-old man with meningoencephalitis, a dangerous inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain.
Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.
Diagnosis is based on their symptoms and recent history (e.g. mosquito bites, or travel to an area where Zika virus is known to be present).
Zika virus vaccine
There is no vaccine to prevent the infection of Zika virus. There are no medicines to treat Zika. Read Zika vaccine
Main Article: Zika virus Prevention
Since there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus, the best way is prevention. Zika virus is spread through mosquito biting, hence care should be taken not to be bit by mosquitoes.
- Breeding of mosquitoes could be prevented by temoval and modification of breeding sites
- Reduce the contact between mosquitoes and people
- use insect repellents
- wear clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible
- use physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows
- sleeping under mosquito nets
- empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres
- Special attention should be given to those who cannot protect themselves from mosquito bites such as young children, the sick or elderly
- Health authorities should spray insecticides during outbreaks
Main Article: Sexual transmission of Zika virus
On February 2, 2016 the first case of sexual transmission of Zika virus was reported in the United States. A patient contracted the disease in Dallas County after having sexual contact with a person who was infected with the Zika virus in a country where Zika virus was present. Health officials are saying that next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infections.
Brazil has reported two cases of Zika virus which was contracted with blood transfusion. Blood suppliers can't screen for Zika virus as there are no commercial tests available. The risk of contracting virus through blood transfusion in the United States is low as the virus is not spreading through mosquitoes in the US.
The American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services are asking people who traveled to Zika-affected areas to delay blood donations by 28 days and 21 days respectively.
After infection, the patient develops immunity to the virus.
Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment.
People sick with Zika virus:
- should get plenty of rest
- drink enough fluids
- treat pain and fever with common medicines.
If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.
If you think you have contracted Zika virus illness
If you travelled to a destination affected with Zika virus and if you think you have contracted the illness.
- Go to a doctor if you have any of the symptoms - rash, joint pain, fever or conjunctivitis
- Let the doctor know where you've travelled, when you've travelled and how long were you in the destination
- To bring down the symptoms, counter drugs like acetaminophen or paracetamol (Tylenol, etc.) can help. But you should take the advice of doctor.
- Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
- Take Rest and drink plenty of liquids
- Be extra cautious and prevent mosquito bites