The Zika virus: What you need to know

New born baby affected with zika virus

The most dreaded virus – the Zika virus is doing the rounds in India. Three people, including a pregnant woman, were found infected with mosquito-borne Zika virus in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. The first infection was detected in February last year and the second in November .

With this dreaded disease affecting all, including pregnant women, a little caution is always better. Here’s all that you must know about Zika!

What is it?

The Zika virus is a disease that is spread to people by the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito. The same mosquito is also responsible for spreading Chikangunya and dengue. They are aggressive day time biters and spread the infection from person to person through bites.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are not present in nearly 80% of all infected people. The most common symptoms however, are conjunctivitis (red eyes/ Madras eye), fever, rashes and joint pain. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Where is the outbreak?

The recent outbreak now started in May 2015 in Brazil. However, Zika has been discovered in many places with tropical climates, such as South America – Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and even parts of South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. People, especially pregnant women, are advised against traveling to these areas for another year or two, till the outbreak is brough under control.

What is the risk to pregnant women?

While the Zika virus has not been shown to cause major grief to most of the population suffering from it, it is suspected to have a very specific link to pregnancies and children born with microcephaly (a condition where children are born with smaller brains than usual), which then causes a host of other related problems throughout the baby’s life. These were first discovered in Brazil after the country started seeing more than 4000 cases of microcephaly since the Zika outbreak. Official numbers and statistics and a confirmed correlation has not been made. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) among other world health organizations recommends against pregnant women traveling to these affected areas till more is known for sure.

The link between an infected pregnant woman passing it on to the unborn fetus is yet to be conclusively studied.

Is there a vaccine against Zika?

Currently, there is no vaccine against Zika. However, it does appear that those who’ve been infected once have lifetime immunity against it.

What is the treatment?

Because it is a virus, any treatment only aims to alleviate the symptoms themselves. The following are recommended options –

  • Rest, recuperation and lots of fluids
  • Paracetamol or Tylenol to treat fever (no ipubrofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Clean hygiene practices, as the virus can spread from blood and other infected carriers.

How can Zika be prevented?

Prevention includes not traveling to infected countries or being exposed to those back from the countries recently. Precautions include but are not restricted to –

  • Wearing full sleeved shirts/pants to prevent exposure to mosquito bites
  • Remaining in clean indoor areas that are netted and possibly air conditioned
  • Using safe insect repellents over stagnated water and indoor areas (not on skin)
  • Using ODOMOS or other topical treatments on the skin to prevent mosquito bites
  • Using of household mosquito repellents like All-Out, mosquito repellent patches etc. during day time to avoid the bite of the Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

How long is a person contagious after contracting Zika?

About a week. Avoid exposing yourself to any more mosquitoes or other carriers.