The alarming outbreak of Zika Virus: What you need to know

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection that can spread to people through an infected mosquito bite (Aedes species mosquito). The Zika virus is a serious threat to pregnant women as it can cause major brain defects in unborn children, a condition called microcephaly. The virus was first identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

With Brazil being most affected, the virus is spreading through Africa, America, Asia and Pacific regions at an alarming rate. Currently, there are no vaccine, specific treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests available. The virus is carried by the same species of Aedes mosquitoes that carry dengue and yellow fever viruses.

Transmission of virus:
• Through mosquito bite
• Possible transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy Symptoms

The most common symptoms include:
• Fever
• Skin rashes
• Conjunctivitis
• Muscle and joint pain
• Malaise and headache
• Congenital defect in newborns recorded as abnormally small head with brain disorders
• Neurological conditions like Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) that leads to muscular            weakness in adults.

Diagnosis and treatment

There is yet no vaccine or medicine to prevent or treat Zika virus. The treatment approach is similar to that of dengue fever.
• Get plenty of rest
• Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
• Take medicines to relieve fever and pain
• Avoid medicines like aspirin that can increase the risk of bleeding

Pregnancy and Zika: Caution for pregnant women

Pregnant women are recommended to follow maximum preventive measures. They should avoid travelling to affected countries/regions.
Newborn babies of mothers who have had a Zika virus infection especially during the first trimester of pregnancy are at an increased risk of microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than the normal babies of the same sex and age are. Microcephaly has been linked with the following problems:
• Seizures
• Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
• Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
• Problems with movement and balance
• Feeding problems, such as swallowing difficulty
• Hearing loss
• Vision problems

Precautions to Prevent Zika Virus

The only option is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Preventing mosquitoes from breeding is the best way to control the outbreak.
• Avoid/Clear stagnation of water around your homes, schools or offices
• Empty, clean or cover containers such as buckets, flower pots or tyres
• Use insect repellent
• Cover up with long sleeves and long trousers (preferably light-coloured)
• Close doors and windows to avoid mosquitoes to enter the house
• Sleep under mosquito nets
• The present condition is so critical that it is even advised women in affected countries to delay getting pregnant

Prevention is the best tool to win the war against this virus. Be informed and act accordingly. Your health lies in your hands.