The Zika virus was first discovered in the year 1947 in Uganda, Africa. It is a mosquito-borne disease and is caused by the same mosquito carriers that spread Chikungunya, yellow fever and dengue.
The Zika virus spreads like any other virus that are carried by the mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it becomes a carrier of that virus. Then when it bites the next person, it gets transmitted to that person. However, this virus can also get transmitted through sexual contact with the infected person. Infected men and women can pass this virus to their sex partners with the latter having no visible symptoms of infection.
The virus was mainly found in Africa only. In 2007 it started spreading to the areas of the South Pacific. Several studies by the Brazilian scientists found the virus to be present in the urine and saliva of infected persons.
What are the symptoms of the Zika Virus?
The symptoms are not overtly visible in the infected persons. Some infected people might suffer from joint pain, fever, rash and headaches. Amesh Adalja, MD and a spokesman of the Infectious Diseases Society of America said, “Only about 1 in 5 people with the virus will exhibit symptoms……. The vast majority have no symptoms at all.”
The World Health Organization (or WHO) said, “there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/what-is-zika-where-did-the-virus-come-from-and-what-happens-if-i/)
It is very rare that people have died from the Zika virus and those who have died had other underlying conditions.
How can the Zika virus be treated?
Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent this virus. In June 2016, scientists from the Pasteur Institute (in France) found out that the same antibody can be used to neutralize both dengue and Zika virus. This is because both these viruses belong to the same family called the Flaviviridae and the same mosquitoes transmit them.
Zika virus can cause microcephaly and other abnormalities in babies who are born with the virus-infected mothers. Microcephaly can result in stillbirth and miscarriage and it inhibits the growth of the baby’s head, causing brain damage as well. In Brazil, more than 1,700 babies were born with microcephaly and other birth-related defects as a result of this virus. Brazil along with other nations have suggested women to postpone their pregnancy.
According to the WHO, people who are diagnosed with this virus should take ample rest, have enough fluids and treat fever and pain with the common medicines available.
How can the virus be avoided?
Prevention is the best way to avoid it. Follow these steps below.
- Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where the virus is circulating.
- The partners of the pregnant women who have visited Zika-infected areas should practice safe sex.
- People should use mosquito repellents and wear long-sleeved clothes.
- A mosquito net should be used during sleeping.
- Stagnant water or standing water is the breeding ground for these mosquitoes. So empty those containers (such as buckets or flower pots) that contain standing water.