Zika virus was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and is known to be transmitted by a species of mosquitoes called the Aedes. This is the same mosquito species which carries other dangerous viruses such as dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever etc. The mosquito acts as the transmitter of diseases – transmission occurs when the mosquito bites a healthy person after biting an infected patient. Till 2007, the virus outbreak was limited to only Africa, but it has now spread widely across to South Pacific.
What is the Zika Virus?
A lot of people wonder what exactly this virus is, and whether it is like other diseases that are spread by mosquitoes namely, chikungunya, malaria, dengue etc. All these mosquito-borne diseases cause similar symptoms, which can range in their severity and can last for more than a week. So what is different with Zika? Zika virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual contact and from an infected mother to her unborn child during pregnancy. The virus can be found in urine, semen, blood, saliva, and the eye fluids of an infected person and can easily be transmitted through any of these fluids. Also unlike the other mosquito-borne diseases, once a person has been infected with Zika, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
What are the symptoms of the Zika Virus?
Some of the common symptoms of the disease include:
Sometimes, the Zika virus symptoms are so common that people don’t even realize that they are suffering from the virus. Only 20% of the people exhibit symptoms of the virus, while the other 80% do not have any symptoms at all. The symptoms can start showing up 2 to 7 days after infection and last for almost a week. If you feel that you are suffering from any of the symptoms, or if you have recently visited places where there was a Zika outbreak, it would be advisable to contact the doctor and get a test done immediately. Pregnant women need to be extra careful, and should get the Zika tests done without fail if they experience any of the above symptoms.
What is the impact of the Zika Virus?
Zika virus can lead to birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is abnormally smaller than normal babies. The infected baby might not last the full term of pregnancy; it can induce miscarriage or still birth.
Babies born infected with Zika can have a range of health problems like developmental delay, intellectual disability, hearing loss, seizures, vision and feeding problems. These problems can range from mild to severe and are often lifelong; they can even be life-threatening in some cases.
In adults, The Zika virus has been found to affect the immune system. It has also been linked with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition where the healthy nerve cells are attacked by the immune system. Zika virus, in some cases, can also impact the brain of a patient, leading to swelling and other neurological dysfunctions.
Zika Virus in India
In India, the detection of the Zika virus is done through random sampling exercises, which are undertaken by the department of health. A large-scale anti-mosquito drive has been launched in order to reduce the population of these vectors, and to control the spread of Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria and Zika.
The Zika Virus Case: Ahmedabad
The first 3 incidents of the Zika virus in India were reported in Ahmedabad, between February 2016 to January 2017. The patients were an elderly man, a new mother and a pregnant woman. All the cases were from the same hospital, BJ Medical College, which is run by the Gujarat Government. As per the health commissioner of Gujarat, the random presence of the Zika virus was confirmed, but there was no evidence about the source of the virus.
The infant delivered by the infected woman did not have any symptoms of microcephaly, brain damage, etc. The woman, who tested positive for Zika, had however developed a low grade fever soon after delivery. Surprisingly, there was no medical history of fever while she was pregnant and she had not travelled anywhere during the 3 months before delivery.
How can Zika Virus be treated?
There is no vaccine or actual treatment for Zika; treatment consists of relieving pain, fever and any other symptom causing the patient discomfort. The normal course of the disease is usually a week, and it usually gets treated in that period.
An infected person can also take to other measures like getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. It is important to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin.
How can you prevent the Zika Virus?
While the professionals do the work of finding an effective vaccine for the Zika virus, we should focus on protecting ourselves from getting infected. All protective measures start with protecting yourself against the disease-causing mosquitoes.
You can follow these tips to protect yourself from the Zika virus:
By staying alert and keeping yourself protected from the deadly mosquitoes, this disease can be successfully avoided.