Zika Virus Disease At A Glance
An emerging mosquito-borne virus disease, Zika is a mild disease due to its symptoms which are relatively minor.
Despite the fact it's not a life-threatening disease, it does not mean it needs to be ignored because not much is known about this disease.
It should also be noted this is not a new disease, previous cases had been reported in several parts of the world.
While it seems there is an outbreak of this disease in western hemisphere, previous outbreaks have been reported in Africa, Pacific, the Americas and Asia.
This virus disease was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys. Later in 1952 this disease was identified in humans in Uganda and Tanzania.
How Zika Virus Disease is Transmitted
Zika virus disease is spread by Aedes mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are active during the morning and evening hours. The cycle of transmission of Zika virus is the same as that of Malaria. This mosquito acts as a vector. When this mosquito bites an infected person it in turn infects a person, who is not infected, when it bites that person.
Recent research has shown an infected pregnant mother can spread the disease to her baby either during the time of birth or in the course of pregnancy.
Lastly, studies seem to suggest this disease can be spread during sexual intercourse. However, further studies are still being carried out to validate whether it is the case.
It should be taken into consideration Aedes mosquitoes are also responsible for the transmission of Dengue and Chikunguya.
Symptoms of Zika Virus Disease
The symptoms of Zika as noted by WHO and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) are mild. The symptoms begin from 2-7 days after a person is bitten by an Aedes mosquito which is infected.
The symptoms of Zika virus disease are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis condition (reddening of eyes)
Currently, there is no vaccine for this disease. World Health Organization recommends those who get infected to:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration
- Use common medicines that treat fever and pain
Is it true Zika virus disease causes birth defects, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and other negative birth outcomes?
It is still too early to know for sure whether the reported birth outcomes and GBS are related to Zika virus or it's a combination with another disease, or they are caused by a totally different disease.
The birth defect that was reported (and still do) is a baby's head turns out to be smaller than the usual size when compared to other babies of the same age and sex. This condition is known as Microcephaly. Infected women should rush to hospital as it can result to brain damage, and at times it can lead to stillbirth or miscarriage.
GBS is a condition (a rare one) when a person's immune system injures the nerve cells thereby weakening the person's muscles to the extent of leading to paralysis. This symptom can last from weeks to months. Some recover from this condition while for others it becomes permanent (permanent paralysis). It is rare for people to die from this condition.
The CDC on April 13 said Zika causes microcephaly in babies born to infected pregnant women. Microcephaly stunts a baby’s head growth, causing devastating, sometimes-fatal brain damage, and it can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
The Way Forward: Prevention
The same measures taken to avoid getting infected with Malaria are the same steps that can be taken in this case. Sleep under treated mosquito nets, wear long pants and sleeved shirts, clear bushes, get rid of still water surrounding your house, use registered insect repellents etc.
Pregnant women or expectant mothers should be careful when traveling to countries or regions deemed infected by this disease or where outbreaks have been reported. They are the most vulnerable.
Remember: If symptoms persist pay a doctor a visit before it turns out worse.