What is zika virus?
Zika virus refers to a mosquito-borne viral infection that is spread by the Aedes mosquito. It is the same species of mosquito that spreads the chikungunya and dengue viruses.
These mosquitoes are active during the day and can survive in both indoor and outdoor environments. Zika infected mosquitoes are likely to be present in areas with wet lowlands and warmer temperatures. Zika virus has affected people in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South and Central America.
While the symptoms of Zika virus infection are mild, the infection can have a serious impact on infected pregnant women and the unborn children. It can cause birth defects in babies like microcephaly, where the baby is born with brain damage or underdeveloped heads. Loss of pregnancy, stillbirth, and other disabilities can also happen.
The infection has also been linked with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a rare and serious autoimmune disorder that can affect the central nervous system.
Zika virus symptoms
Most cases with Zika virus infection report no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they are mostly mild and vague and can last up to a week. Initial zika virus symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Pain behind the eyes
- Conjunctivitis, or red eyes
Who is at risk?
Zika virus risk factors include:
- Traveling to or living in countries with outbreaks: Tropical and subtropical areas increase the risk of exposure to the virus of an individual. These are mainly the tropical regions of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, North America, Africa, and Asia.
- Unprotected sexual activity: The virus can spread from one person to another through sexual contact. It is suggested to practice abstinence or use a condom during all sexual contact, especially in pregnant women.
Zika virus causes
Aedes species mosquito is the primary zika virus cause. The main species of Aedes that usually spread the virus are Aedes albopictus or the Asian tiger mosquito, and the Aedes aegypti also called the yellow fever mosquito.
Zika virus transmission happens primarily through a bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. This species of mosquito can be found throughout the world.
When a person infected with Zika virus is bitten by a mosquito, the virus enters the mosquito. On an event of the mosquito biting another person, the virus transmits to the other person’s bloodstream.
Additionally, the virus can spread through sexual contact and blood transfusion.
Zika virus can also spread from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy and create serious complications.
How is zika virus diagnosed?
The doctor will begin zika virus diagnosis by asking about your travel history or a partner’s travel history to an area with Zika virus outbreak as well as any event exposure to mosquitoes. The doctor will take note of the symptoms and when they began.
Zika virus rash looks similar to that of other viral infections. The doctor may order zika virus test to rule out the possibility of any other cause. These tests include blood tests, urine tests, and saliva tests.
Women who are pregnant and have a zika rash are usually advised to take tests to check if the fetus shows signs of microcephaly or any other abnormalities. These tests may include:
- Sample of uterine fluids (amniocentesis)
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How is zika virus treated?
A special or exclusive zika virus cure does not exist. There is also no vaccine for Zika virus. Suggested zika virus treatment is similar to the treatments for other flu-like illnesses and include:
- Getting a good amount of rest
- Taking plenty of fluids
- Taking zika virus medicine like acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain
How can zika virus be prevented?
Protecting oneself against mosquito bites is the major aspect of Zika virus prevention.
Measures should be taken to reduce the population of mosquitoes by getting rid of any breeding spots for mosquitoes like stagnant water near the house, plant pots, etc. When living in or traveling to a region with the risk of Zika virus,
- Wear clothing to cover and protect yourself like long sleeves, full pants, socks, and shoes.
- Apply an effective mosquito repellent with at least a 10 percent concentration of DEET.
- Use a bed net at night.
- Stay in places with window screens.
- Avoid traveling to areas with the risk of Zika virus if you’re pregnant.