Zika virus – a new powerful cousin of other variants!

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Zika virus – a new powerful cousin of other variants!

Hi everyone! We hope this article finds you in good health despite the situation outside. Many of us are aware of how, Zika virus entered the scene causing havoc in Kerala, India, where COVID-19 is still spreading. Let’s learn more on the symptoms, causes, risks, treatment & much more on regard with Zika virus which is deadlier than other virus’s and variant.

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Overview:

This infection is is also referred as Zika Zika fever and Zika virus disease. Zika virus is found mostly in tropical & subtropical areas and the common reason for its spread is through mosquito bites. We should know that the people infected with Zika virus show no symptoms. While not many show any symptoms some develop light fever, muscular pain and rashes. It is said that pregnant women have increased risk of miscarriage and the foetus may be born impaired.

Symptoms:

Many infected individuals don’t show any symptoms or only mild symptoms are shown: i.e. fever & rashes. Out of 5 people 4 show no signs of symptoms for this virus. In the cases where symptoms occur, it starts to show 2 to 14 days after being infected by the mosquito bite. The symptoms continue throughout the week and most of the individuals recover completely. The ones who are at serious risk to the this virus infection are pregnant women and the fetuses. Pregnant women with this infection pass it on to their foetus causing the baby to be born with congenital defects (physical abnormalities present from birth.) Eg: microcephaly – undeveloped, smaller brain compared to normal one.
Common symptoms of Zika virus infection:

  1. Slight fever
  2. Rashes
  3. Joint pain (hands/feet)
  4. Red eyes (conjunctivitis)

Other known symptoms:

  1. Muscle pain
  2. Headache
  3. Eye pain
  4. Fatigue or a general feeling of discomfort
  5. Abdominal pain

Causes of Zika virus infection:

  1. This infection is spread via mosquito bite of an infected mosquito.
  2. Two aedes species mosquitoes commonly found everywhere transmit Zika virus.
  3. When an infected person is bit by a mosquito and then it goes and then it bites another person then virus is transmitted causing an infection.
  4. Zika virus can spread through sexual contact, blood transfusion, organ donation.
 

Risk factors:

  1. Travelling and living in outbreak with outbreak: the risk of getting infected by virus is more if a person is living or travelling to tropical and subtropical areas. The most riskier areas are as follows: islands near West Africa, many countries and Central, South and North America and a few Pacific Islands. Since Zika virus mosquito carriers are found everywhere so it’s possible that outbreaks will continue to spread to new areas.
  2. Unsafe sexual intercourse: Through sexual contact this virus can spread from one individual to another. The risk is heightened if there’s a history of recent travel and the risk is up to 3 months. So, pregnant women should abstain or use protection for sexual intercourse if their partner has a recent history of travel to an infected area.
 

Treatment for Zika virus infection:

This disease caused by Zika virus is normally not serious and does not require a particular treatment. Infected individuals must take rest stay hydrated and treat pain and fever with paracetamol. In case the symptoms becomes dire they should seek medical attention. Vaccine for this virus is not available yet. Readily available medications like acetaminophen(Tylenol) helps alleviate joint pain and fever.
Stay clear from using ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or aspirin till your physician says you are not having dengue, as these medicines can cause fatal complications for dengue fever.

Prevention:

If either you or your partner is trying to get pregnant, follow these instructions to reduce the possibility of getting infected by Zika virus infection.

  1. Travel: CDC suggest all pregnant women to refrain from travelling, especially to areas where there is outbreak of Zika virus. Consult your doctor whether you are your partner’s future travel plans might pose a threat, if you’re trying to become pregnant. The physician may suggest to wait to try to conceive for about some months after travel.
  2. Safe sex practices: So, pregnant women should abstain or use protection for sexual intercourse if their partner has a recent history of travel to an infected area.

Ways to reduce mosquito bites:

  1. Room: Residing in air conditioned room or in a well screened house helps prevent Zika virus, as the carriers are active from dawn to dusk but they bite at night too. Sleeping under a mosquito bed net also helps.
  2. Protective clothing: long sleeve shirt long pants socks and shoes help prevent mosquito bites.
  3. Insect repellent: the best insect repellent for your skin contains picardin, DEET are any other ingredients with environmental protection agency. Permethrin can be used on clothes and other things like camping gear and shoes.
  4. Habitat: we can reduce mosquito habitat where Zika virus breed by source reduction (removal of breeding sites). It helps reduce mosquitoes. Follow the steps to curb mosquitoes breeding by source reduction: Do empty, clean or cover containers that can contain water like buckets, pots, tires. Emptying stagnant water one day in a week reduces the risk of Zika virus infection. During infection outbreaks infected side should be sprayed.

Diagnosis:

Before diagnosing, your physician will enquire about your recent medical and travel history, detailed explanation on any international trips the countries you and your partner went, travel date and if you remember getting bit by a mosquito. After this, the physician might ask you to take a blood or urine test to confirm the diagnosis if they suspect that you have this infection. Pregnant women who travelled recently may ask their physician if they need to be tested.
The procedures used for a pregnant woman if she is at the risk of this infection are as follows:
Ultrasound – helps to detect fetal brain problems
Amniocentesis – usually done by inserting a hollow needle into uterus to take a sample of amniotic fluid which is then used for testing.

When to meet with a physician?

  1. Since the symptoms of other mosquito related illnesses and Zika virus are indistinguishable see your physician if you are not feeling well after a recent trip.
  2. If you have a recent travel history to region where there’s an outbreak and you suspect suspect that you or a member of your family might have Zika virus, do see your doctor.
  3. Just as a precaution ask your doctor if you need to be tested if you have recent history travelling to a region where Zika virus is prevalent, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Questions asked by your physician:

Your physician may ask the following questions:

  1. When did your symptoms start?
  2. Are you either pregnant or trying to become pregnant? Do you use condoms?
  3. Is your symptoms continuous or infrequent?
  4. Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
  5. Have you traveled in the past month? If yes, where?
  6. Were you bitten by mosquitoes while traveling?
  7. Have you been in contact recently with anyone who was ill?

Complications:

Infected pregnant women (with Zika virus) are at the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth( loss of a baby before or during delivery) & congenital birth defects in the baby (congenital Zika syndrome)

Congenital Zika syndrome includes the following defects:

  1. Smaller brain when compared with a normal brain and head size (mirocephaly) & a partly collapsed skull
  2. Brain damage & reduced brain tissue
  3. Eye damage
  4. Joint problems, limited motion
  5. Reduced body movement as a result of too much muscle tone after birth

Adults with this infection experience brain/nervous system complications like Guillain-Barre syndrome( condition in which immune system attacks the nerves), seen even in individuals with no symptoms of Zika virus infection.

Blood donation:

This is also the reason in a few cases for the spread of Zika virus. To lessen this risk blood donation centers should implement proper screening of all the blood donations for the presence of Zika virus. If you want to donate blood but you have a recent travel history to a region where Zika virus is prevalent means: you are advised to donate blood after four weeks.

Zika virus history & current state:

The Zika virus which was an unknown disease to a worldwide public health emergency. Zika virus was first identified in 1947 in Uganda. It was very rare but in 2015, out of nowhere this virus started to spread in Brazil and many other regions. Then this virus arrives to US in 2016 and Zika virus infection was first identified in India in May 2017. Three cases of Zika virus were reported, of which two were pregnant women who later delivered healthy babies. Researchers traced the spread of Zika for years. According to WHO, the tracing of this virus is done on a large scale after 2015.
View this link to view the Zika virus mapping.
There are still many unanswered questions regarding Zika virus, its symptoms, if there is a link to microcephaly and so on. Dr. Nikos Vasilakis from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, states that people travel long distances in very less time due to flights & if they are infected by any virus this results into a worldwide problem.

Conclusion:

We might’ve never worried about a mosquito bite before but it is high time we take it seriously. The vaccine for Zika virus is still on process so our best bet to save ourselves from this virus is to avoid mosquito bites & reduce mosquito habitats. Follow the necessary precautions and stay safe.

Author Profile

Subin Joshua
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Subin Joshua
Hi there, my name is Subin Joshua, and I am a Medical student. I grew up in a family of teachers and know that being a social worker is my calling. My passion for helping others has been evident in my involvement in helping the poor and needy for the last three years. Through those experiences, I have learned to interact with a diverse group of people, which has increased my ability to relate to others.