What is Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection caused by the Zika virus. It was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys, and later in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the daytime, particularly around dawn and dusk.
Symptoms of Zika virus infection are typically mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The symptoms usually resolve within a week. However, in some cases, the virus has been linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly (a fatal brain disorder), as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a neurological disorder.
The best way to prevent infection is to protect yourself from mosquito bites, for example using mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active. There is currently no specific treatment for Zika virus infection, and no vaccine is available to prevent it.
Zika virus was declared a Public health emergency of International Concern by WHO in 2016 and since then it was put under control. Though it is still a concern in some areas, so it is important to stay informed and take the necessary precautions if you are planning to travel to an area where the virus is present.
The Zika virus can be spread through sexual activity as well as through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can be found in semen, vaginal fluids, and blood and transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also be spread from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy or at delivery.
Once a person is infected with the virus, it can stay in the semen for a long time, even after the symptoms of the disease have gone away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that men who have been infected with Zika virus should wait at least six months before having unprotected sex and that men with a pregnant partner should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy. It also recommended that men who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika to use condoms or abstain from sexual activity for at least three months after returning.
It’s important to note that sexual transmission of the virus is relatively rare and that most people who are infected with Zika will not have any symptoms. The risk of sexual transmission can be reduced by using condoms, and by taking steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
However, the most common way to get Zika is still through being bitten by an infected mosquito. Therefore, it’s important for people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as using mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and staying indoors in air-conditioned or screened-in rooms.
Symptoms of Zika Virus
The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection include:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Muscle pain
- Eye pain
- Fatigue or a general feeling of discomfort
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms of Zika virus infection are typically mild and last for several days to a week. Many people infected with the virus do not have any symptoms at all.
However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe brain defects. It is also linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
If you suspect you may have been infected with the Zika virus, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. They may also be able to recommend ways to prevent the virus from spreading to others.
To prevent Zika virus infection, it is recommended to take steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using mosquito repellent, and staying indoors in air-conditioned or well-screened areas. And also practice Safe sex, or abstain from sexual activities, if you or your partner have or recently have traveled to an area with active Zika transmission.
Cause of Zika Virus
- From Monkeys to Humans: Primarily Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys, and later in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of infected two species of Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the daytime, particularly around dawn and dusk. These mosquitos are found all around the world.
- From Human To Human: When an uninfected mosquito bites an infected person, it carries the virus and affects new uninfected persons by biting them. The virus enters the bloodstream of the person and causes infection.
- From Pregnant Woman to Fetus: Zika Virus can be transferred from an infected mother to a fetus.
- Sexual Transmission of the virus: The Zika Virus is a sexually transmitted disease, and can be spread from an infected person to an uninfected person through unsafe sexual intercourse. The virus can affect even if the symptoms and signs have completely gone away because it dwells in the semen of the person (infected in past) for several weeks and months.
Risk factors of Zika virus infection
There are several factors that can increase the risk of their spread. These factors include;
- Living in countries where there is an outbreak of the Zika virus:Zika virus is found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Outbreaks of the virus have occurred in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
Living in a country where there is an outbreak of the Zika virus can be concerning, as the virus can cause serious birth defects in infants born to infected mothers, as well as other health problems in some individuals. However, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from infection.
One of the most important things you can do is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes using mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and using screens or bed nets to keep mosquitoes out of your living space.
It’s also important to be aware of the risk of infection during pregnancy, as the Zika virus can cause serious birth defects in infants born to infected mothers. Pregnant women and women who are planning to become pregnant should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and should consider postponing travel to areas with active outbreaks of the virus.
You should also take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus by eliminating mosquito breeding sites, such as by removing standing water around your home, and by keeping windows and doors closed or screened to keep mosquitoes out. If you have symptoms of the Zika virus, such as fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes, seek medical attention immediately.
It is important to be informed about the current outbreak situation in your area, and the advice given by local health authorities. Following the guidance can help to prevent getting infected.
- Having unprotected sex. The Zika virus can spread from one person to another through sex. Having unprotected sex can spread the Zika virus. The virus can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluids, and blood and passed on to a partner through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Using condoms or practicing abstinence can help prevent the spread of the virus. It’s important to note that even if a person does not have symptoms, they can still spread the virus to their sexual partners.
Complications of Zika Virus Infection
The most common complication of Zika virus is microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than normal due to incomplete brain development. Other potential complications include:
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Zika Virus can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system. The condition causes damage to the nerves, resulting in muscle weakness and numbness that typically starts in the legs and spreads to the arms and face. In severe cases, GBS can also cause respiratory failure and death.The exact cause of GBS is not known, but it is believed to be triggered by an infection, such as a viral or bacterial infection, Zika virus one of them. GBS can also be triggered by surgery or vaccinations.Symptoms of GBS include tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes, muscle weakness in the legs and arms, and difficulty walking or controlling movement. Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, and breathing difficulties.
Diagnosis of GBS is made through a combination of physical examination, nerve function tests, and spinal fluid analysis. There is no specific treatment for GBS, but treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing complications. Treatment options include immune therapy, physical therapy, and supportive care.
GBS can be a severe and life-threatening condition, but with early diagnosis and proper treatment, the majority of patients make a full recovery. However, some patients may experience long-term nerve damage and residual weakness.
- Congenital Zika syndrome:Congenital Zika syndrome is a set of birth defects that can occur in babies born to mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while they were pregnant. The most common birth defects associated with congenital Zika syndrome include microcephaly (a small head and brain size), abnormal brain development, and eye defects. Other possible defects include joint and limb abnormalities, as well as hearing and vision problems.The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, but it can also be spread through sexual contact, from mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery, and through blood transfusions. The risk of a baby developing congenital Zika syndrome is highest for women who are infected during the first trimester of pregnancy, but the virus can infect the developing fetus at any point during pregnancy.
There is no specific treatment for congenital Zika syndrome, and the best way to prevent the condition is to prevent Zika virus infection during pregnancy. This can be done by avoiding mosquito bites and avoiding travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant should also avoid sexual contact with men who have recently traveled to or live in areas where Zika transmission is ongoing or use condoms correctly and consistently during intercourse during pregnancy.
It is important to note that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) report that the epidemic of Zika virus is relatively under control and the numbers of infected people are relatively low, but still the disease is present in some countries and individuals travelling to those countries should be aware of the risk, and take appropriate precautions.
- Miscarriage or stillbirth: Miscarriage or stillbirth due to Zika Virus is a serious complication that can occur during pregnancy. As Zika virus can also be transmitted sexually and through blood transfusions. When a pregnant woman is infected with the virus, it can cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus. This can lead to a range of birth defects, including microcephaly (a small head size), neurological abnormalities, and eye problems. In some cases, the virus can also lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. The risk of miscarriage or stillbirth is thought to be higher in women who are infected early in pregnancy. To prevent Zika Virus infection during pregnancy, it is important to take measures to prevent mosquito bites, and to avoid travel to areas where the virus is known to be spreading.
- Neurological problems:The Zika virus can cause a range of neurological problems, including:
- Encephalitis: This is an inflammation of the brain that can cause headaches, fever, and confusion.
- Myelitis: This is an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause muscle weakness and sensory loss in the legs and arms.
- Meningoencephalitis: This is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that can cause fever, headaches, and confusion.
It is important to note that not all individuals infected with the Zika virus will develop neurological problems, but it is still crucial to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of infection.
- Other birth defects: Other birth defects that have been reported include eye problems, hearing loss, and joint contractures. It’s important for pregnant women to take precautions and avoid areas where Zika virus is circulating, as there is currently no treatment or vaccine to prevent infection.
Prevention of Zika Virus
As the Zika virus can be spread by mosquito bite, and unsafe sexual activity, therefore steps to prevent mosquito bite and committing safe sex is the only way to prevent the Zika virus. There are many precautionary measures that can be helpful to remain safe, which include;
- Use mosquito repellent: Use mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing.
- Wear protective clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats to cover exposed skin.
- Use screens and close windows: Keep windows and doors closed or use screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Eliminate stagnant water: Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so eliminate any standing water around your home, such as in flower pots, gutters, and bird baths.
- Stay indoors during peak mosquito hours: Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so try to stay indoors during those times.
- Protect infants: Use mosquito nets over cribs, strollers, and baby carriers to protect infants from mosquitoes.
- Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas: If you are planning to travel to an area where Zika is actively being transmitted, consider postponing your trip until the risk is reduced.
- Avoid unsafe sexual contact: If you or your partner has been in an area where Zika is active, avoid sexual contact or use condoms during intercourse.
- Avoid unsafe blood transfusion: Avoid blood transfusion, if the donor is infected or had travelled the infected country.
Diagnosis of Zika Virus
- Clinical examination: The doctor will examine the patient for symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain.
- Laboratory tests: Blood or urine samples can be tested for the presence of the Zika virus. Tests such as RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) can detect the genetic material of the virus in the samples.
- Serological tests: The patient’s blood can also be tested for antibodies against the Zika virus, which can confirm a previous infection.
- Imaging tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as CT scans or ultrasounds may be performed to check for complications such as microcephaly in infants born to mothers infected with the Zika virus.
It is important to note that the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of other illnesses such as dengue or chikungunya, so doctors may conduct other diagnostic tests to rule out these conditions.
Treatment of Zika Virus Infection
There is currently no specific treatment for Zika virus. The primary focus is on relieving symptoms through supportive care, such as:
- Rest and adequate fluids to prevent dehydration
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen to alleviate fever and muscle pain
- Avoiding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as they may increase the risk of bleeding
- Using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothing to prevent further mosquito bites
- Pregnant women who have been infected with Zika should seek regular prenatal care to monitor the health of their fetus
In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary for close monitoring and management of complications such as meningitis or Guillain-Barré syndrome.