Zika Fever – an Outburst of a Neglected Tropical Disease

Written by Dr. Veena Madhankumar and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team

Zika fever is a mosquito-transmitted infection caused by Zika virus. It is of Flaviviridae family. It spreads to humans primarily through mosquito bite. It has been confirmed in Brazil by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Is it a New One?

 
 

No,  it was reported first in Uganda in 1947 in a Rhesus monkey and identified in Humans in 1952. Prior to this outburst it was reported in Africa, Southeast Asia and Pacific islands. The current outbreak originated in Brazil and has spread to 20 countries in the Americas.

Symptoms of Zika Infection:

Zika virus infection will show the following symptoms (They are similar to dengue and chikungunya), which includes,

1. Mild fever.
2. Rash.
3. Muscle pain.
4. Headache.
5. Joint pain.
6. Conjunctivitis (red eyes).

 
 

The disease usually lasts for a few days to weeks with mild symptoms. Serious illness, hospitalization and death are rare in case of Zika.

Spread of Zika Virus:

Zika virus spreads primarily through daytime active infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquito species responsible for dengue and chikungunya. These mosquitoes are capable to breed in a pool of water.

1 in 5 people get infected with Zika. Most of the infected people did not even know that they are affected due to the mild nature of the disease. The incubation period is not confirmed yet. It might be 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

During first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and can get passed from an infected individual to another mosquito and then from the infected mosquito to another person.

Effect of Zika:

Zika virus is mainly found to attack pregnant women. They are at risk as the virus may cause brain defects in unborn babies. Also it leads to babies with birth defects mainly microcephaly (unusually small head). It also gives rise to a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome (muscle weakness due to peripheral nerve damage).

Treatment for Zika Fever:

1. There is no treatment or vaccine available.
2. Take plenty of rest.
3. Drink fluid to prevent dehydration.
4. Affected persons can take medicine for fever and body pain.

An Indian pharmaceutical company has claimed that they have developed the first ever method of treatment for Zika virus. Two vaccines made by the company are set for pre-clinical testing in animals.

Precautions to Be Followed:

1. Avoid mosquito bite especially during daytime.
2. Sleep under mosquito bed net.
3. Keep windows and doors closed.
4. Stay in air conditioned room where always doors will be closed and there is no way for mosquito to enter the room.
5. Clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or even tyres where the mosquito can breed.
6.  Wear long-sleeve shirts especially light color and long pants.
7. Special attention should be given to children, sick people, pregnant women and elders.
8. Pregnant women are advised world-wide to cancel their trip to places where the virus is found commonly now.
9. Travelers are given guidelines to stay out of infection.
10. EPA-registered (Environmental Protection Agency) insect repellants can be used.
11. If already infected, should avoid mosquito bite during the first week of illness.


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