What is Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is transmitted through bites of Aedes mosquitoes that cause mild infection in humans, usually fever and rash.
It was first discovered in Africa and then spread to other tropical regions, including South America. It was here that the virus was linked to an increased incidence of microcephaly in babies born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy.
Zika virus is spread when an infected mosquito bites humans.
The virus is also spread from infected humans to mosquitoes through bites. The cycle of transmission of the virus continues when this mosquito bites other humans, infecting their bloodstream.
A mother also transfers the virus to the foetus during pregnancy.
Sexual intercourse has the potential to spread the virus from one person to another. Blood transfusions and organ donation are also ways for people to contract the virus.
- Travelling to countries with Zika virus outbreaks
- Engaging in unprotected sex
Rashes, fever and joint discomfort are the most common symptoms of the Zika virus. The majority of persons who contract the virus are asymptomatic.
Fever is the most frequently noticed symptom of the Zika virus. Sometimes, it resembles dengue fever.
The Zika virus causes either a morbilliform (papules) or a scarlatiniform rash (micropapules). During the first day of illness, the rash begins on the face and progresses to the trunk and limbs.
The rash may cause swelling in the palms and soles. Within 2–3 days, it starts to dissipate and is totally gone within a week.
At the same time, the eyes become irritated and red, and they may become light-sensitive. Petechiae or small red dots can be seen on the palate inside the mouth.
Joint pain is one of the usual symptoms of the Zika virus. The joint pain occurs particularly in the hands and feet.
Arthritis and Arthralgia can result due to joint pain related to the Zika virus. Arthritis is a pain in the joints that is accompanied by swelling, whereas Arthralgia is joint pain that is not accompanied by swelling.
Red eyes (Conjunctivitis)
Conjunctivitis can be experienced if infected with the Zika virus. The symptoms include eyes turning red along with a transparent, watery eye discharge but with no eye pain, fever or eyelid redness.
Muscle pain usually accompanies the Zika virus. It can also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome which is a rare nervous system disease where a person’s nerve cells are damaged by their own immune system, resulting in paralysis and muscle weakness.
Headache is part of the other frequent symptoms of the Zika virus. It usually lasts for two to seven days before the symptoms disappear. The headache is mild and accompanies Zika fever.
Pain in the eye can be because of conjunctivitis and it can be mild or severe. Eye problems mostly occur in babies infected with the virus through their mothers.
Fatigue or a general feeling of discomfort
Extreme tiredness or fatigue usually occurs along with headaches and sometimes fever.
Abdominal pain can start mild and elevate with time. Abdominal pain symptoms include skin rash, vomiting, fever, diarrhoea and groin pain.
When to see a doctor
Doctor consultation is compulsory when a person experiences one or more symptoms of Zika virus and especially if the person has travelled to a place of Zika virus outbreak.
It is very much necessary for a pregnant woman who has visited a Zika virus prone region to consult a doctor even if they show no signs or symptoms
Treatment of Zika virus
Zika virus doesn’t have a fixed treatment. Treatment is provided to relieve the symptoms.
Dehydration is warded off with adequate rest and an increased intake of fluids. Fever and joint pain is treated with medications.
Zika virus infection has symptoms that are comparable to other mosquito-borne illnesses including dengue fever.
Pain killers like ibuprofen and aspirin should not be taken until dengue fever has been ruled out by the doctor. These drugs can increase the risk of dengue fever complications and may even result in bleeding.
It is necessary to take the right precautions since vaccines are not available to protect from the Zika virus.
Plan travel carefully
Travelling is one of the most possible causes of Zika virus transmission. People travelling to Zika virus prone countries or areas must be aware of the consequences and consult a doctor soon after recognising the symptoms.
Expecting women and couples planning for pregnancy have to be extra careful during travel. A doctor has to be consulted before planning a trip.
Practice safe sex
Zika virus can be transmitted from an infected person to their partners through intercourse. Because the Zika virus can survive in sperm for longer than it can in other body fluids, the timeframes in which men and women can spread the virus through sex differ.
Protection like condoms must be used if any one of the partners has recently visited an area where the Zika virus is a concern. They can also abstain from having intercourse.
Safety measures has to be taken for at least three months if it is the male partner who has travelled and it is two months if the female partner has travelled to a Zika prone region.
Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing
It is recommended to stay in rooms with air conditioning and with protective screens on the windows and doors. This prevents mosquito entry and keeps the place safe from virus attacks.
Removing standing water from home as well as neighbouring areas can inhibit contracting the virus.
Aedes species of mosquitoes are usually daytime feeders. Being more vigilant at night is necessary as mosquitoes can bite anytime and sleeping under a mosquito bed net can guard us.
Wear protective clothing
Protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants with socks and shoes are recommended. Wearing such clothes can help cover oneself and intercept mosquito bites.
Use insect repellent
To prevent Zika virus infection, patients should be given IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil, DEET and picaridin.
Although DEET has traditionally been the most effective topical insect repellent, picaridin is more skin-friendly.
The use of a CDC-recommended and EPA-registered insect repellent on the skin, as well as the application of permethrin, provides enhanced protection.
Reduce mosquito habitat
Mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus typically dwell in residential areas, breeding in standing water gathered in containers such as flower pots, animal bowls and old tyres.
Emptying any sources of standing water at least once a week can help reduce mosquito populations.
The Zika virus is mostly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
The simple way to keep away Zika is to avoid mosquito bites.
Everyone must be guarded against mosquito bites, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Even for pregnant and breastfeeding women, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective when used as prescribed.
Transmission in pregnancy
Microcephaly and other major brain abnormalities are caused by Zika infection during pregnancy.
Microcephaly causes babies to have smaller brains that do not develop correctly. Not every baby born to a Zika-infected mother develops microcephaly.
Zika virus can also lead to growth defects in the womb, miscarriage, stillbirth and congenital Zika syndrome. This syndrome is a collection of five health issues at birth that are connected to Zika infection during pregnancy.
Abstaining from travel to countries with Zika virus during pregnancy is the only way to minimise virus transmission.
Zika virus originated in Africa and is spread through the bites of Aedes mosquitoes. The transmission also occurs during pregnancy and sexual intercourse.
Since there is no vaccine for the Zika virus, primary treatment involves relieving the symptoms. To prevent the virus contraction, safe travel is recommended.
1. What happens if you get the Zika virus?
Fever, headache, rash, joint discomfort, muscular soreness and red eyes occur after contracting Zika virus. Many persons infected with Zika will be asymptomatic or show minor symptoms that might last anywhere from a few days to a week.
Zika virus during pregnancy results in growth defects in the foetus such as microcephaly.
2. Does the Zika virus still exist?
The existence and transmission of the Zika virus is very minimal in recent years. However, one cannot be careless and proper protection against mosquito bites has to be done.
3. Where does the Zika virus come from?
Zika virus originated in the Zika forest in Africa and spread gradually. It is transmitted by Aedes genes of mosquitoes.
4. Does Zika stay in your system forever?
No. The Zika virus eventually exits the body. The Zika virus is a virus that the immune system gradually clears. If the woman is infected while pregnant, the virus can lead to birth abnormalities.
5.Is there a vaccine for Zika virus?
Currently, there is no vaccine for the Zika virus. As of now, treatment is provided to relieve the symptoms.
6. Is Zika virus present in India?
Cases of the Zika virus were reported in India until 2021. There has been no incidence of the virus in India in recent times.