The Looming Zika Pandemic

Identified in 1947 in Uganda, Zika has been sidelined in medical research for decades. It is not until the 2013 outbreak, that Zika became a real health threat. There are now worldwide concerns relating to travel and birth defects credited to the disease. Over 40 countries have been marked as Zika high risk areas. Here is what you need to know about Zika.

What is Zika and how it’s transmitted?

zika virusZika is a viral infection caused by the Zika virus. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus. When female mosquitoes bite an infected person, they become carriers of the virus. The Zika virus settles and multiplies in the salivary gland of the Aedes mosquito, and is transmitted when the infected insect bites another person. Infected pregnant women can transfer the virus to the fetus, to which the virus poses the biggest danger causing microcephaly

In addition, Zika is also spread through sex contact with an infected person and contact with body fluids. This is the conclusion, after a recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on a man in Utah, who contracted Zika by coming into contact with the sweat of an infected person.

What are the symptoms?

Zika symptoms include joint pains, fever, headaches, bloodshot eyes (conjunctivitis), and an itchy pink skin rash. Newly infected persons begin showing symptoms of Zika within a week. However, it is estimated that only 1 in 5 infected adults will manifest any symptoms.

How is the virus diagnosed?

There is no current rapid test for the Zika virus. Testing for the virus is only done through analysis of blood and urine samples of patients.This analysis has to be done within two weeks after the symptoms start showing. Zika diagnosis is a difficult task since the symptoms are mild and resemble other infections.

Who is at risk of the infection?

Adult patients who contract Zika face the risk of temporary paralysis. Usually people who overcome Zika develop immunity to the virus.

However, the real threat of Zika is to pregnant women. If a pregnant woman is infected with the virus, she will pass it on to her child. Children are then born with deformities as a result of the transmission. The effects of Zika on newborns include severe microcephaly, blindness, seizures, and deafness.

What is the treatment for Zika?

At the moment, Zika patients are treated using paracetamol medicine and getting a lot of rest. There is no existing vaccine so far, but efforts to develop one are being taken by many teams of medical scientists.

As for newborns adversely affected by Zika, therapy to help families deal with the consequences is the only available relief.

Prevention

The credible health organizations such as Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) currently advise people to take preventative measures against mosquito bites, and abstain from having sex with partners who have traveled to Zika prevalent areas recently. Furthermore, travelers, especially pregnant women, have to be screened for Zika to avoid spreading the virus.