Zika Virus - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention & Treatment

Zika Virus - The Latest Threat to Mankind

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 3 Feb 2016 - 17:21.

Aedes Agypti Mosquito

After Ebola, it's now Zika virus that's threatening the mankind. Zika is the new vector borne disease that has attained a pandemic status across countries of South America and a few cities in US among others. There is no medicine or vaccine to treat the illness caused by this virus.

Key Facts:

  • Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family and the Flavivirus genus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • It is caused by a mosquito bite. Female Aedes Aegypti is the same mosquito that transmits Dengue and also the Zika virus.
  • The virus is spreading in Central and South America.
  • Though not as deadly as Dengue fever, Zika virus can cause severe health related issues in babies born to infected mothers.
  • This mosquito-borne virus attacks the foetus in an infected pregnant woman.
  • Microcephaly is the most common issue showing up in babies whose mothers are infected by Zika virus, where the baby’s head is much smaller and not well developed.
  • Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex.
  • At least two deaths in Brazil and one in Colombia have already been reported in December over microcephaly.
  • The symptoms are rash, pink eye, mild fever, headache
  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill.
  • Researchers explain that Zika virus which is able to cross the placental barrier after entering the womb from the mother's bloodstream and infect the fetus.
  • The spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported in isolated cases.
  • National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials admit that the infection could easily spread from one to the other with the mosquito biting an affected person and then biting a healthy individual.
  • Women who are pregnant must protect themselves from mosquito bites by using repellants, wearing thick clothing, long sleeves and pants, and by staying indoors

What is Zika?

Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family and the Flavivirus genus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. In humans, it causes a mild illness known as zika, Zika disease, or Zika fever. In 2015 it spread to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean and is now considered pandemic.

Though not as deadly as Dengue fever, Zika virus can cause severe health related issues in babies born to infected mothers. This mosquito-borne virus attacks the foetus in an infected pregnant woman. Microcephaly (a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex) is the most common issue showing up in babies whose mothers are infected by Zika virus, where the baby’s head is much smaller and not well developed.

This condition has been found by researchers to be caused by the Zika virus which is able to cross the placental barrier after entering the womb from the mother's bloodstream and infect the fetus.

Microcephaly usually is the result of abnormal development of the brain in the womb or brain not growing normally after birth. At least two deaths in Brazil and one in Colombia have already been reported in December over microcephaly.

It is caused by a mosquito bite. Female Aedes Aegypti is the same mosquito that transmits Dengue and also the Zika virus. Some reports say there have been isolated cases of the virus spreading through blood transfusion and sexual contact. However, for most of the non-pregnant population, Zika virus has not presented a particular risk yet.

Is there a threat of the virus spreading in India?

Though there have been no confirmed Zika cases in India yet, India is susceptible to the disease, given the prevalence of Aedes Aegypti - the same mosquito that transmits Dengue in India causing frequent endemics every year. Most part of our counrty is in the Red zone where zika virus is a possibility. Therefore Zika virus cannot be ruled out in India.

In India, particularly Bengaluru (with 1,249 dengue cases in 2015) may have a  possible outbreak if the mothers are infected. National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials admit that the infection could easily spread from one to the other with the mosquito biting an affected person and then biting a healthy individual.

Researchers have found the virus to be deceptive because in adults it expresses only through a mild fever with symptoms similar to dengue and chikunguniya with no hospitalisation required. The most common symptoms are rash, pink eye, mild fever and headache or joint aches. However, if a pregnant woman gets infected, though she suffers a mild fever, the virus can attack the foetus to cause irreparable damage, if the condition is not tested and diagnosed in time.

  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill.
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis or pink eye. Other symptoms include muscular pain, headache, pain behind the eyes, and vomiting.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week
  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon

Diagnosis of zika virus disease is a challenge as the symptoms of Zika is similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, which are diseases caused by other viruses but spread by the same type of mosquito. Your doctor may advise blood tests to look for zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya viruses. Your healthcare provider may find out if you have travelled recently or exposed to mosquito bites. In case you experience the above referred symptoms you must see a doctor without delay.

There is no medicine, vaccine to treat Zika yet. However the symptoms can be treated by taking plenty of fluids, good rest and take paracetamol or acetaminophen to relieve pain or fever. Until Dengue can be ruled out, any kind of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and Aspirin may be avoided, to reduce the risk of hemorrhage.

Since zika is caused by mosquito bites, the first step of prevention should be to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito by following various steps, such as:

  • Using mosquito repellents
  • Apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent (in case you are using both)
  • Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing
  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Clear standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets

THE US CDC GUIDELINES

  • Maternal-foetal transmission of Zika virus has been documented
  • In a pregnant woman with laboratory evidence of Zika virus in serum or amniotic fluid, serial ultrasounds should be considered to monitor fetal anatomy and growth every 3-4 weeks. Referral to a maternal-foetal medicine or infectious disease specialist with expertise in pregnancy management is recommended.
  • Because there is neither a vaccine nor medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, it is recommended that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
  • If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the day.
  • Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
  • There is no commercially available test for Zika virus. Testing for Zika virus infection is performed at Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and several state health departments. Health care providers should contact their state or local health department to facilitate testing and for assistance with interpreting results.
  • For a live birth with evidence of maternal or foetal  Zika virus infection, the CDC recommends examination of the placenta and umbilical cord; testing of frozen placental tissue and cord tissue for Zika virus RNA; and testing of cord serum for Zika and dengue virus IgM and neutralizing antibodies.

Areas active with Zika Virus (transmitted by mosquitos)

  • Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued first alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil in May 2015.
  • The outbreak is continuing to occur in several countries
  • Zika virus will continue to spread and will be difficult to determine as to how and where it will spread.

 

Reference: CDC; Bangalore Mirror

*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.