On Wednesday, April 13, 2016, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the mosquito-borne Zika virus causes of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects in a fetus.
Now we know that Zika is more dangerous than previously thought. It is essential to be more concerned about the virus. Here are 8 of the most important things to know about it.
1. What is Zika virus?
According to California Department of Public Health, Zika virus is a viral disease that is transmitted to people, primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito – either an Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) or Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito). Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus have the potential to transmit several viruses, including dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever.
Zika has been also associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder when the body's immune system attacks a part of the nervous system.
2. Where did it originate?
1947 – Zika virus was first discovered and identified in rhesus monkeys in Zika Forest, Uganda.
1948 – The virus was recovered from the mosquito Aedes which was caught on a tree platform in the Zika forest.
1952 – The first human cases were identified in Uganda and Tanzania according to WHO
1952 to 2007 – Cases of Zika outbreaks have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Fourteen cases were confirmed and documented. Other cases were likely to have occurred but were not reported because the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases such as flu.
2007 – Zika spreads from Africa and Asia which caused the first large outbreak in humans on the Pacific Island of Yap, the Federated States of Micronesia.
2013 - 2014 – The virus spread in four other groups of Pacific Islands: French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia.
2015 – Brazil notifies World Health Organization of illnesses characterized by skin rashes in northeastern states.
From February 2015 to April 2015, nearly 7,000 cases of such illness were reported in these states.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil.
Feb 2016 – The World Health Organization declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories.
3. As of 2016, what is the status of Zika virus?
Feb 2016 – The World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern because of clusters of microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a problem in the nervous system.
A number of countries with reported local transmission of Zika Virus reached 33.
Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries.
Zika virus will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how and where the virus will spread over time.
4. What are its effect on victims?
Microcephaly – a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, which can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome –an uncommon nervous system illness in which a person's immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis
5. How is it transmitted?
The bite of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same type that spreads dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Pregnant women who become infected with Zika virus can transmit the disease to unborn babies
6. What are the symptoms?
- Muscle & joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Swollen joints
The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. However, it can be found longer in some people. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
7. How can it be prevented?
- Prevention and control rely on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.
- If travelling in Zika infected areas, travelers should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Particularly, parents who plan to have a baby should consult with healthcare provider first.
- Wearing of long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Usage of insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535.
- Usage of insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age.
- Usage of permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents).
- Usage of bed nets as necessary.
- Usage of essential oil diffuser is recommended to deter mosquitoes from entering your home. Various types of essential oil diffusers are available to suit the need on health improvement, relaxation, insect repellant, etc.
- Staying in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms
- Being vigilant for the 2 hours after sunrise and the 2 hours before sunset.
- Consultation with health care provider after traveling to a country affected by Zika Virus.
- Prevention from donating blood for 28 days after returning from a country affected by Zika
8. What are the right things to do if you think you are infected?
As there are no specific treatments for Zika virus and the symptoms will typically clear up after 4-7 days, you should stay calm and go to your nearest healthcare service as soon as possible.
In the mean time, what we can recommend you are:
- Paracetamol for pain and fever, if needed. Until a healthcare professional can rule out dengue, taking of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, is prohibited due to the risk of bleeding.
- Plenty of rest and fluids.
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