Sep 7, 2016

Zika Virus – History, Symptoms, Risks, Treatment and Prevention

zika virus

Zika Virus, a mosquito-borne ailment, is gaining worldwide attention today because of its appalling effects and health disorders. A virus spread by the infected species of mosquito – Aedes, it is the same specie class that is responsible for the transmission of chikungunya and dengue viruses as well.

Unlike the malaria-carrying species, these mosquitos are most active during the day time. However, a bite at night is equally dangerous. Typically, there are two types of mosquito species responsible for the transmission of the Zika Virus – the Aedes Albopictus and the Aedes Aegypti .

History of Zika Virus

The virus of Zika was first found amid the monkeys of Uganda in the year of 1947 and was identified through a network that studied and monitored yellow fever. Later in 1952 it was identified among the residents of Uganda and the Unite Republic of Tanzania. Since then, the outbreak of this fatal virus has been recorded in many countries across the Asian and the African continent. The first massive outbreak of Zika virus was, however, recorded in Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) in the year of 2007. Post 2007, the virus has spread across the world infecting millions of people globally.

Symptoms of Zika Virus

People living with the virus of Zika usually do not experience any symptoms or are likely only to notice mild symptoms. These include:-

  • Fever,
  • Pain in the joints,
  • Rashes,
  • Conjunctivitis or red eyes
  • Headache, and
  • Pain in the muscles.

The above-listed symptoms are expected to persist for a longer period of time, typically for a week or more. Since the symptoms are mild in nature, people do not pay much attention to the symptoms and do not take the pain of visiting a doctor. Hence, they are not diagnosed with the presence of Zika virus in their body. Symptoms of this illness are very similar to that of other viruses spread through mosquito bites, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Zika virus is suspected to remain in the blood stream of an infected person for an approximate period of seven days. It is advised to see a doctor or a healthcare provider in case one develops the above-listed symptoms or has recently paid a visit to a Zika affected area. Getting diagnosed at an early stage is especially crucial for women who are pregnant. Zika virus has proved to cause microcephaly in babies born to infected women. Microcephaly is a condition wherein a baby experiences a stunt head growth and suffers from related problems such as mental disorder, brain damage, etc.

Transmission and Risks

In addition to being bit by Aedes mosquito, the virus of Zika can spread via other means as well. These are as follows:-

From a Mother to Her Child

  • Pregnant women can pass the virus of Zika to their babies during pregnancy or around the time of their birth. The virus, as stated above, can cause microcephaly and other chronic brain defects in the babies.
  • The range of potential health problems are yet to be fully identified.
  • To date, no report has been filed that states a baby got infected by the virus of Zika when breastfed by her infected mother.

Through sexual intercourse

  • The virus of Zika can be passed from one partner to another through a sexual intercourse.
    • It can be passed even before the symptoms of Zika start to show, while the symptoms persist and after the symptoms have disappeared.
    • Though not confirmed, it is said that the virus may be passed by a person who is a carrier of the virus but never experiences any kind of Zika symptoms.
  • Studies are underway to suggest the duration for which the virus of Zika remains in the vaginal fluid or semen of a person infected. However, many pieces of research have revealed that Zika remains in semen for a longer period of time in comparison to other body fluids including blood, urine and vaginal fluids.

Through blood transfusion

  • This is yet another way through which Zika virus can be transferred from one person to another.
  • Since the virus remain suspended in the blood stream of an infected person, the chances of it being transferred to another person through blood transfusion are significantly high.
Testing for Zika Virus

In order to detect the presence of Zika virus in a person, he/she is typically examined against his/her recent travel history, symptoms experienced, sexual activities indulged in and test results.

Testing and Sexual Transmission

  • It is highly recommended that people who may be exposed to acquiring Zika virus because of sexual activities or who have Zika symptoms must get themselves tested as soon as possible.
  • Testing semen, vaginal fluid, urine or blood is not highly recommended, as they partially fail to determine how likely a person is to pass the virus of Zika to his/her partner through a sexual intercourse.
Treatment against Zika Virus

There typically are no specific medicines or vaccine to prevent or cure Zika virus. However, one must follow the below-mentioned points to effectively treat this illness.

  • Treat the prevailing symptoms.
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking fluids.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take medicines such as an acetaminophenor a paracetamol to reduce pain and fever.
  • Avoid taking aspirins or any other kind of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine until chikungunya and dengue have been ruled out.
  • Talk to your doctor or healthcare advisor about the potential problems one is likely to face if infected by the Zika virus and how to cure them.
Prevention from Zika Virus

Since there is no such vaccine to avert Zika, the best way to prevent yourself and your family against the virus is to follow the below-mentioned tips:-

  • Try and wear long-sleeved shirts along with long pants.
  • Take adequate steps to prevent breeding of mosquitos inside and outside your home.
  • Treat your clothes and gears with permethrin to keep mosquitos away.
  • Use effective insect repellents at home and at work place.
  • Mosquito netting can be used for protecting the babies against mosquito bites.
  • Prevent having a sexual intercourse with a person infected with the virus of Zika.
  • Condoms can significantly reduce the chances of acquiring the virus of Zika.

Health Effects & Risks in Pregnancy

What is Microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a neurological condition that widely stunts the baby’s head growth. The circumference of the head is exceptionally smaller than the usual size which can apparently cause damage to the brain, delay the development of speech and movement, and can even result in stillbirth or miscarriage of the baby.

symptoms of zika virus

Complications related to Microcephaly are as follows:-

  • Mental retardation,
  • Dwarfism or short stature,
  • Hyperactivity,
  • Changes in the genes,
  • Facial distortion, and
  • Seizurs.

Zika Virus and Other Pregnancy Related Problem

In addition to Microcephaly, there are a plethora of other problems that a Zika affected baby can suffer. These include eye defects, impaired growth and hearing loss. Although these are the only primary ailments diagnosed by experts at the moment, it is suspected that there is more to learn and reveal. Researchers are gathering more data to better understand the extent of impact this chronic virus can pose on the mothers and their babies.

Future Pregnancies

The prevailing evidences state that once the virus of Zika has been cleared from the blood stream of an infected woman, the virus will not pose any kind of risk or birth defects in her future pregnancies. From what is known, once the Zika virus has infected a person, he/she is not likely to be infected by it again in future.


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