Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

ALT TAGThe Zika virus has now arrived in the United States, with mosquitoes dispersing the virus in two Miami-area neighborhoods. Pregnant women have been advised to stay clear of these locations.

The virus is a cause of many birth defects in babies given birth to by some already infected pregnant women. Mosquitoes are the major carrier, even though there have been reported cases of sexual transmission.

Pregnant women who have recently traveled a part of Miami Beach or to the Wynwood area of Miami should visit their doctor about getting tested. Pregnant women and their partner living in these areas or have one reason or the other to travel to the area should take precautions in avoiding mosquito bites.

  • What is known as Zika virus? How is the virus contacted?

The Zika virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947, is transmitted by same yellow fever, and dengue fever-carrying mosquito. A mosquito bites an already infected person and goes on to pass the virus to any other person it bites. Outbreaks began to occur outside of Africa after 2007 when a situation was first recorded in South Pacific. Infected men and women can both spread the virus to unprotected sexual intercourse.

  • What are the Symptoms?

Zika fever is an infection which is caused by the Zika virus. No particular symptoms can be associated with the disease. They are usually mild and can be similar to the symptoms of dengue fever. Some of the likely symptoms may include red eyes, fever, headache, joint pain, and a rash. Symptoms usually last  for less than seven days. Up till now, no reported deaths has been associated with the symptoms during the initial infection. Infection during pregnancy usually causes microcephaly and many other brain malformations in the baby. Infection in adults has been associated with Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).

  • How are you Diagnosed?

Diagnosis for Zika is by testing the urine, blood, or saliva of a suspected person for the presence of Zika virus RNA when such a person is sick.

  • Is there any connection between Zika, pregnancy, and microcephaly?

Zika is a cause of microcephaly in babies given birth to by infected pregnant women. Microcephaly stunts the growth of the head of the baby. This may end up leading to devastating, or even fatal brain damage. It can as well result in stillbirth or miscarriage. Infection during the initial stages of pregnancy, when a baby’s organs are still been formed, seems to be related to the worst consequences.

  • How can you get treated?

Concerning treatments, there has not been any major breakthrough. Many people with the Zika fever symptoms have been noticed to perform well using off the shelf medications for pains and aches. The disease usually runs its course within a week. It is advisable to talk to a medical practitioner.

Pregnant women who have had reasons to travel to Zika infected areas should see their doctor, and make sure their baby’s health is checked.

Pregnant women with Zika should also get ultrasounds every 3 to 4 weeks in order to monitor the growth of their baby

No vaccine is available for now, but the National Institutes of Health announced on 3rd of August that it had started to test a Zika vaccine in humans. At least up to 80 people are expected to take part in the exercise.

  • What protective measures should you take?

If you have a reason to take a trip down to these affected areas, try as much as possible to avoid mosquito bites by making use of repellents all through the day. Put on long pants and long-sleeved shirts, both indoors and outside. The Zika virus-spreading mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters usually found indoors. Your body needs to be protected throughout the day.

It will be advisable to stay clear of these areas.



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