Zika Virus- Alarming threat to pregnant women and new born babies
The outbreak of Zika virus in Latin American and Caribbean nations spreads panic among the officials. They have warned women to avoid pregnancy amid concerns over an illness causing severe birth defects. Many countries including Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica recommended delaying of pregnancies until more was known about this malignant disease. The pregnant women may not be aware of the danger from the sting of the mosquito bite followed by fever due to Zika virus until it strikes their unborn child. It is suspected to be the cause of microcephaly or abnormally smaller heads resulting in brain damage. US health authorities have issued travel warnings to pregnant women in certain countries like South America, Africa, Oceania and Caribbean. The virus is expected to spread more drastically covering local areas in Barbados, Bolivia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, Cape Verde in Africa and Samoa in the South Pacific.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika virus which is a member of Flaviviridae virus family is a mosquito-borne viral disease transmitted to human beings by Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes. It is interconnected with similar pathogenic vector borne Flavivirus such as dengue, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis producing a comparatively mild febrile viral illness known as Zika fever in humans. The incubation period ranges between 3 to 12 days.
Spotlight on Zika Virus:
The virus was first identified in April 1947 when a rhesus monkey living in the Zika forest of Uganda developed an unknown febrile illness. Scientists isolated a new transmissible agent from the sick monkey and named it Zika virus. The vector of Zika virus was finally confirmed in 1948 when the same virus was discovered in an Aedes africanus mosquito trapped in the same forest. Researchers were unable to trace any evidence of human infection with ZIKV until twenty years later when it was isolated from human patients in Nigeria.
In 2007, an outbreak of illness characterized by skin rashes, conjunctivitis and arthralgia was reported on the Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia, but the outbreak caused only mild illness among 108 confirmed cases.
Since 2015, the current outbreak of Zika virus that began in Brazil has now progressed to other countries in Central and South America and to the Caribbean Islands.
Causes of Outbreak in Brazil:
Local authorities suspected the outbreak was due to a massive influx of foreign visitors attending the 2014 Fifa World Cup combined with large population of Aedes aegypti and A. Albopictus mosquitoes in the region. The virus had previously been existed only in some parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Counter measures to eradicate virus carrying mosquitoes:
With just few months away before the highly anticipated 2016 Summer Olympics going to be hosted in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil's Ministry of health has announced its countermeasures to ensure safety and protection of Olympic athletes as well as spectators from Zika virus who are expected in the city. Based on their countings that August is relatively a drier month in Brazil, the population of mosquitoes that spreads disease could be much lower than at present. Further steps are put forward by the authorities such as inspecting the facilities four months before the events as well as fumigation. However, the latter will only be implemented in extreme cases to avoid health issues for athletes and audiences. Stadium premises will be swept clean daily.
Symptoms of Zika Virus:
- Low grade fever
- Skin Rashes and Pruritus (severe itching of the skin)
- Arthralgia (pain in a joint) with possible swollen joints.
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Myalgia (Muscle pain)
- Asthenia (a chronic respiratory disease)
- Digestive problems like abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation
- Aphthae (mucous membrane ulcerations- a small ulcer formed in groups in the mouth or on the tongue)
Consult a healthcare provider and explain to him in detail how you developed the symptoms and from when and where you contracted the virus? The healthcare provider conducts the necessary blood tests to confirm any virus infection like Zika or other similar viruses like Dengue, chikungunya.
Currently, there is no specific anti-viral treatment or medicine for Zika virus infection available. Patients are advised to take plenty of rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
Travel guidance related to Zika Virus:
Travelers are strongly recommended to protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
- Wear appropriate clothing like long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent tick bites and mosquito bites.
- Walk in the center of hiking trails and stay away from wooded and brushy areas with high grass, brush and leaves where the ticks are more active.
- The tsetse fly which lives in the sub-Saharan Africa can contract African sleeping sickness or African trypanosomiasis.
- Prevent tsetse fly bites by wearing neutral -colored clothing since they are more attracted to very bright and dark colors, metallic fabric.
- Avoid bushes during the day time. The tsetse fly usually rests in bushes and will bite if disturbed.
- Apply insect repellants containing Deet, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus which are safe for pregnant and nursing women, but not advisable for children under the age of 3.
- Avail permethrin treated clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents to kill or repel insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.
- The tsetse flies are attracted to moving vehicles, so inspect the vehicle for any flies before entering.
- Sleep in " screened-in or air-conditioned rooms."