Zika Virus: Key facts
- Zika virus disease is caused by viruses transmitted mainly by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day.
- Its symptoms are usually mild and include muscle and joint pain, fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headache. usually last 2–7 days. Most people with Zika viral infection don’t develop symptoms.
- Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause infants with microcephaly and other congenital malformations known as congenital Zika syndrome. Infection with the Zika virus is additionally related to other complications of pregnancy, including preterm birth and miscarriage.
- In February 2016, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus disease an international public health emergency.
- There is an increased risk of neurological complications for Zika virus infection in adults and children, including Gilroyen-Barre syndrome, neuropathy, and myelitis.
History of Zika Virus
The Zika virus disease is a part of the Flaviviridae family of viruses, which also includes the viruses that cause West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis.
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1948 in a rhesus monkey located in the Zika Forest in Uganda.
By 1981, it was inpatients in parts of Africa (including Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Egypt, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and Gabon) and parts of South and Southeast Asia (including India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia) Was seen. And the Philippines).
Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been reported on the island of Yap in Micronesia in 2007 and French Polynesia in 2014. Starting in May 2015, an outbreak of the virus was reported in South America.
The Zika virus can spread from an infected person to an uninfected person by way of mosquito bites.
Aedes species of mosquitoes is an invasive day feeder that bites many people in a row, transferring viruses among humans.
There have also been reports of the virus being transmitted from mother to fetus before the baby is born, to baby during childbirth, through sexual contact, and from blood transfusions.
Zika Virus Disease
Approximately 1 in 5 people (20%) who become infected with the Zika virus will experience mild flu-like symptoms, which can include fever, itchy rashes, muscle, and joint aches, headaches, fatigue, and conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes).
The symptoms typically appear within a week (2 to 7 days) after infection and last up to around a week.
The greatest concern regarding Zika virus disease is the infection’s suspected link to a serious condition called microcephaly (abnormally small skull) in babies born to women who have contracted Zika virus disease during pregnancy.
There have also been reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome following Zika virus infection. Guillain-Barre is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing muscle weakness and possibly paralysis.
It’s not known exactly what causes Guillain-Barre, though some viruses have been reported to trigger it.
Zika virus disease is diagnosed through a blood test. It is recommended that certain people see a physician or go to a clinic if they are at risk of infection:
- Individuals who have recently traveled to areas where the outbreak has been reported and who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should speak to a healthcare provider. This is to rule out other serious infections, such as malaria.
- Women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant and who have recently traveled to high-risk areas should check with their prenatal care team for more information about the risks associated with Zika infection.
There is currently no treatment or vaccine available for the Zika virus. Individuals in high-risk areas should take precautions to avoid exposure to mosquito bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, wearing insect repellant that contains at least 25% DEET, avoiding standing bodies of water, and sleeping under a mosquito net.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika to be an international public health emergency. This was in response to the 2014 outbreak in French Polynesia and the 2015 outbreak in Brazil. These outbreaks were linked with a significant increase in cases of microcephaly and other neurological complications in babies born to women who had contracted Zika virus disease during pregnancy. The WHO emphasized the need to fast-track research on Zika infections to better understand the link between Zika and pregnancy complications, including microcephaly. Other necessary research includes the need for a better understanding of how the infection spreads
Zika Virus: Causes
The Zika virus is a type of flavivirus that was first discovered in a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. Before the 2015 outbreak, Zika virus disease had been documented in parts of Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The virus is known to infect both humans and non-human primates.
Transmission by Mosquito
The Zika virus is primarily spread between humans by the Aedes species of mosquito, which are present throughout many parts of the world. These are the same types of mosquitos that spread the viruses that cause dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Aedes mosquitos are aggressive feeders that tend to bite several people in succession, which can spread the virus from an infected person to an uninfected person.
- Aedes aegypti mosquitos are found in warmer climates and cannot survive cold weather.
- Aedes albopictus mosquitos can survive in cooler climates.
Aedes mosquitos can travel between regions by accidentally being transported by humans, such as in a vehicle or with cargo.
Warm, wet weather and areas with standing or stagnant water (puddles, ponds, bogs, reservoirs, etc.) make it easier for mosquitos to survive and breed. Unlike some other types of mosquitos, Aedes mosquitos are active during the daytime, particularly during mid-morning and from late afternoon until twilight.
Once a female Aedes mosquito has laid its eggs, the eggs can survive up to a year without water. It only takes a small amount of standing water for the eggs to hatch and mature into adult mosquitos.
Other Forms of Transmission
The Zika virus is primarily a mosquito-borne illness. However, in rare cases, the Zika virus has been reported to spread by other means, including:
- Through sexual contact
- From mother to child through the placenta
- From mother to child during childbirth
- Via blood transfusion
Symptoms of zika virus
The period of time between when a person is infected and when symptoms first appear is called the incubation period. The incubation for the Zika virus is thought to be between a few days and a week. In other words, symptoms may begin to appear somewhere between 2 – 7 days after infection.
Mild, Flu-Like Symptoms
Most individuals who become infected with the Zika virus will not experience any symptoms.
Approximately 20% of people (1 in 5) who are exposed to the virus develop symptoms. Those who do become ill most often have only mild, flu-like symptoms. These can include:
- Fever (usually low-grade)
- Body aches (muscle and joint aches)
- Rash, which may itch
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Symptoms typically don’t require any special treatment and will go away on their own within about a week (2 – 7 days).
If You Experience Symptoms of Zika Virus Disease
Symptoms of Zika virus disease are seldom serious enough to require hospitalization. However, anyone who is experiencing symptoms and who has recently been in an affected area should talk to a physician. This is important to help track the spread of the virus and to rule out dengue fever, which can have life-threatening complications (see the Diagnosis and Treatment sections for more information).
Women who are pregnant, are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus disease, and who have recently been in an area with reported cases of Zika virus disease should speak to their prenatal care team as soon as possible. Zika virus infections during pregnancy have been linked with serious complications in newborns (see the Complications section for more information)
Symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome are the result of damage to the nervous system, and can include:
- Unusual or tingling sensations in the extremities (called paresthesia), including the toes, feet, ankles, fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Muscle weakness, particularly weakness that begins in the lower body and spreads upwards. (the weakness can sometimes progress into paralysis).
- Difficulty with balance, standing, and walking.
- Difficulty with speaking, chewing, swallowing, and facial expressions.
- Bowel/bladder incontinence.
In severe cases, Guillain-Barre syndrome can affect heart rate, blood pressure, or even cause difficulty breathing. Symptoms tend to be the worst about 2-4 weeks after they begin and start to get better after about a month.
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