Zika virus according to the WHO is spreading explosively. It causes some birth defects in babies born to pregnant women who have been infected with the virus, says the CDC.
The CDC has issued travel warnings for pregnant women in countries where the disease is spreading.
Zika virus is spread mainly by mosquitoes, although some cases of sexual transmission have been reported.
In this article, I’m going to shed some light on some questions about Zika virus.
- What is zika virus? How do you get it?
- What are the symptoms of zika virus?
- Is the virus similar to other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as chikungunya, dengue fever or the west Nile virus?
- How is the virus treated?
- What is the connection between zika, pregnancy, and microcephaly?
- Which countries are in the CDC travel warning for women who are pregnant?
- What if I’m pregnant and I’ve traveled to these countries?
- Can the virus lead to other health conditions?
- How is zika tested?
- What protective measures can be taken against zika?
What Is Zika Virus? How Do You Get It?
Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. The virus is transmitted by the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and the chikungunya virus.
The mosquito bites an infected person and then passes the virus to other people it bites. Outbreaks did not occur outside Africa until 2007 when it spread to the South Pacific.
What Are The Symptoms Of Zika Virus?
The virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain and some redness in the whites of the eye, and most people won’t know they have it.
Amesh Adalja, MD and a spokesman for the infectious Diseases society of America say that only about 1 in 5 people with the virus will show symptoms, The vast majority have no symptoms at all.
Zika has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that is also capable of causing partial or complete paralysis, often starting in the legs, most often temporary. But these are in rare cases.
Is The Virus Similar To Other Mosquito-Borne Illnesses, Such As Chikungunya, Dengue Fever Or The West Nile Virus?
All of these can cause a type of flu-like symptoms which ranges in severity and can also last from a few days to more than a week. Just as with Zika, few people infected with dengue or West Nile will show no symptoms.
How Is The Virus Treated?
There is no known treatment. But according to Adalja, people with symptoms do well with over-the-counter drugs for aches and pains. The disease most often runs its course within a week or so.
What Is The Connection Between Zika, Pregnancy, And Microcephaly
The CDC as at April 13 said that Zika virus causes microcephaly in babies born to infected pregnant women. Microcephaly also stunts the baby’s head growth, causing devastating and sometimes fatal brain damage. It can also result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Which Countries Are In The CDC Travel Warning For Women Who Are Pregnant?
The CDC has warned that pregnant women in any trimester should “consider postponing travel” to countries and territories where Zika transmission is ongoing:
- American Samoa, Anguilla, Argentina and Aruba.
- Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bonaire and Brazil.
- Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and Curacao.
- Dominica and Dominican Republic.
- Ecuador, Eustatius and El Salvador.
- Fiji and French Guiana.
- Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Guyana.
- Haiti and Honduras.
- Marshall Islands, Martinique and also Mexico.
- New Caledonia and also Nicaragua.
- Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru and Puerto Rico.
- Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, S. Virgin Islands, Suriname, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten and also Samoa.
- Tonga, Trinidad and also Tobago.
- Vincent and the Grenadine.
What If I’m Pregnant And I’ve Traveled To These Countries
Talk to your doctor, and have your baby’s health checked out. You’ll be screened for symptoms of the virus. If you have the symptoms, other diseases such as dengue or chikungunya can be ruled out.
Pregnant women with Zika virus should also get ultrasounds every 3 to 4 weeks to monitor the baby’s growth.
Can The Virus Lead To Other Health Conditions?
Zika has been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. There may also be a link between Zika and an autoimmune disorder called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis(ADEM). According to research, the immune system of a person with the disorder attacks the myelin coating around nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This is also the same with multiple sclerosis.
A group of doctors in March reported the first case of brain swelling linked to Zika, in an 81-year-old man on a South Pacific cruise. The man had a fever and lapsed into a coma.
How Is Zika Tested?
There are two ways to test for Zika virus. One of these tests looks for pieces of the virus genetic code in people with an active infection. But after the body has cleared the infection, which takes roughly 2 weeks after symptoms appear, the test won’t work.
On March 18, the FDA also made an approval of a more advanced type of this test that can discern if a person has dengue, chikungunya, or Zika virus rather than having to do three different tests.
The other test looks for proteins called antibodies made by the immune system to fight the virus. It can also find antibodies in the blood up to 3 months after a person is infected.
What Protective Measures Can Be Taken Against Zika
If you plan to travel to areas that are affected, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by also using mosquito repellent throughout the day.
You can also, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, both indoors and out. The mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive during the day with their bites and are also often found indoors.
Even people who have no idea that they have Zika can also spread the disease.