Simply said, the Zika virus is an infection. It is a disease that mostly spreads through the bite of a mosquito. However, it is not to be confused with other diseases caused by mosquitoes such as dengue and chikungunya. At the same time even though the main cause of the Zika virus is the mosquito, not all types of mosquitoes are to be blamed. The research has pointed out that only a certain type of mosquito is to be blamed for carrying the Zika virus. It is a particular species of mosquito called AEDES mosquito. This type of mosquito usually bites during the day like the mornings and afternoons. However, there are unconfirmed reports saying that these mosquitoes are known to bite during the night as well. These types of mosquitoes have certain distinct features by which they can be easily identified. For example, they have a white line like markings on their legs and a similar type of white marking on the upper side of the thorax. They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical climates.
Reports state that during early 2015, the Zika virus started from the country Brazil and from there onwards it then spread to other countries such as South and North America. In January 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) gave out a warning saying that the virus will spread throughout all America by the end of the same year. However, by November 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the Zika virus epidemic.
Ways to avoid this Zika Fever Virus:
- Generous use of Mosquito repellent ointments/creams/sprays is recommended.
- Since small kids and babies have delicate skin, it is not advisable to use insect repellent on their skin. Instead, it is safer to use mosquito netting for their cribs and beds.
- If for certain reasons a person is sleeping outdoors, then it is recommended that he or she use a mosquito net and sleep under it.
- It is advised to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Clothes worn should cover the whole body.
- For houses, it is recommended to install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- As standing water or stagnant water is an ideal place for breeding mosquitoes, therefore make sure that in the surrounding areas there is no water stored openly which can turn into a fertile ground for breeding mosquitoes. For example, if there are old buckets or pots that can collect water, then it is time to dispose them of.
- It is also in the best interest to change the water collected in birdbaths or pools every week because such places can be a suitable ground for breeding of these mosquitoes.
- As the virus can be passed on from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby, it is advisable to delay pregnancy or take necessary remedial measures.
Effects of the virus:
The Zika virus transmitted by a humble mosquito can indeed cause serious damage to humans. The damage is very severe especially if the Zika virus is affected during pregnancy. It is found to cause heavy brain damage or other brain-related defects. In addition, statistics reveal that the virus during pregnancy has resulted in stillbirths and miscarriage. Also, increasing reports verify the fact that the virus affects the nervous system as well. To put it simply, Zika virus is an infection which can lead to other serious diseases of the nervous system such as Guillain Barre syndrome (known in short as G B Syndrome), which results in slow paralysis of the entire body
Symptoms of Zika Virus:
People affected by the Zika virus will not have any noticeable symptoms or might have very faint symptoms. The noticeable or identifiable symptoms are:-
- Muscle pain.
- Joint pain (usually the smaller joints such as fingers and feet will be slightly swollen)
- Headache, (usually concentrated behind the eyes)
- Skin rashes,
- Red eyes (similar to conjunctivitis, however, there will be no discharge from the eyes)
- Reduced energy levels similar to fatigue
Medical reports state that these symptoms may last for many days or for just a week.
Diagnosis of the virus:
The prevalence of similar mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya has made it difficult to pinpoint or diagnose the Zika virus. However, a consolidated report based on a person’s recent travel history, symptoms and test results can confirm whether a person’s sickness is due to the Zika virus or not.
As the symptoms are similar to other diseases spread through mosquitoes, the doctor may suggest further tests that may involve Blood or urine testing in order to confirm a Zika infection.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus. The treatment suggested by Doctors is only for relieving the pain. For example pain relievers such as Acetaminophen, Tylenol, etc. can be given to relieve the muscle and joint pain. Also, medicines may be prescribed for reducing the fever. Also, it is highly recommended to take adequate rest and include a lot of fluids in the diet in order to reduce weakness in the body and prevent exhaustion. For patients below 12 years of age, it is not advisable to give Aspirin, unless and otherwise it is recommended by a Doctor.
Another important point to remember is that doctors’ advice people to delay their pregnancy at least by 6 months if either the person or her partner is known to have visited a Zika virus-infected country or region.
Over a period of time, the human body slowly clears itself of the presence of the Zika virus. This happens as the immune system takes control and flushes it out. This proves that the Zika virus is not permanent like other viruses such as AIDS virus which do not leave the human body at all.
A word of caution:
There is no specific medicine for Zika. Right now several vaccines are still in the testing stage. As a precautionary measure, avoid taking Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines or even steroids until the reports confirm that the patient has been infected with the Zika virus. Taking this medicine can be fatal if the person has been diagnosed with dengue fever instead of the Zika virus as these medicines can cause severe bleeding.