What is Zika Virus?
Just like dengue and malaria, Zika is a kind of a virus which spreads from the bite of a mosquito. The strain was first identified in Africa in 1947 but the cases came in limelight when the outbreak was identified in Brazil in 2015 and slowly, the epidemic found its way to India as well. The virus spreads in the usual manner, through an infected Aedes mosquito but the disease can also spread through sexual contact.
Zika was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation in 2016. Spread from the bite of Aedes mosquito, which are responsible for spreading dengue, chikungunya as well. While there is no risk of contracting the infection otherwise, there is a risk of infection through sexual transmission which puts expectant mothers and babies at a greater risk.
Symptoms to look for
Much like dengue, the first visible sign of Zika is fever but it is very hard to diagnose at first. Many patients confuse the symptoms for a flu and hence, do not know if they actually have contracted Zika.
If you have a fever, a running nose, headache and rashes which persists for over a week, it is time that you get tested. Some people also get conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headache, commencing two to seven days following exposure. In rare cases, Zika Virus has also been found to cause autoimmune infections.
Zika becomes a big cause of concern for expectant mothers, who are largely at risk. People are advised to check on their travel plans to countries affected by it. Since the aedes mosquito is the most active during daytime and late afternoon, it is cautioned that people limit their outdoor exposure as much as they can during this time and stay covered; use high grade mosquito repellants. People staying indoors should also ensure that water does not stay collected in the open. To lower the risk of birth anomalies and further spread, it is also advised that partners returning from Zika-infected should practice safe sex or abstain from it, if possible.
Can you die of Zika?
Not necessarily, no. However, there are cases rising everyday. Like other mosquito bitten diseases, rest and medication are the key to cure Zika. But as the virus infects hundreds of thousands of people all at once, it’s causing a range of symptoms never seen before which makes the disease hard to contain. Usually patients recover but it kills about 1 percent of victims.
Is there a solution?
No vaccine currently exists to prevent Zika. However, researchers in France are trying to develop a safe, effective vaccine for which trials are underway. They both belong to the same viral family, called the Flaviviridae, and are transmitted by the same mosquito. There is no treatment for Zika infection. Zika has also been associated with other neurological disorders, including serious brain and spinal cord infections. The long-term health consequences of Zika infection are unclear. Other uncertainties surround the incubation period of the virus and how Zika interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as dengue.
Although the long term consequences of Zika are unclear, it has been associated with neurological disorders and spinal cord infections and serious birth complications.