The World Health Organization has claimed the virus Zica a global public health emergency as it could cause birth defects. Four million people have been infected by the end of 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended pregnant women against travel to about 100 countries, mostly in the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America, where the epidemic is growing. The infection may result in unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns. Below are some answers and advice about the outburst.
1. What Is The Zika Virus?
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection related to dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. It was first founded in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda and is common in Africa and Asia. Only a few of world population have immune defenses against the virus so that it is spreading rapidly. Millions of people in tropical regions might now have become infectious. Yet for most, the disease causes no symptoms and results in no lasting harm.
2. How Is The Virus Spread?
Zika is spread by the Aedes genus mosquitoes, which can breed in a water container and usually operate during the day. Aedes aegypti, the aggressive yellow fever mosquito, has spread most Zika cases. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, is also known to transmit the virus. Even though the virus is usually transmitted by mosquitoes, there is one report of possible spread through sex and one of potential spread through blood transfusion. On one occasion, the virus was found in semen.
3. What Are The Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika infection are fever and skin rash (exanthema), usually along with conjunctivitis (red eyes), headache, muscle or joint pain, and general malaise, which begins 2-7 days after the bite of an Aedes mosquito. The incubation period for Zika disease is not determined yet but is likely to be a few days to a week. Severe disease demanding hospitalization is uncommon; deaths are infrequent. Neurological and autoimmune complications are rare but have been reported in the outbreaks in Polynesia and Brazil. Since the virus spreads in the Americas, giving scientists more knowledge of its symptoms and complications, it will be likely to characterize the disease better.
4. Which Countries Should Pregnant Women Avoid?
The list includes about 100 countries mostly in Asia, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the virus will spread in every country in the Americas except Chile and Canada. WHO/PAHO does not recommend any travel in areas where Zika virus outbreaks have been reported. Travelers are advised to consult with their healthcare provider and strictly follow the suggested precautions to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
5. How to Diagnose Zika Virus Infection?
Zika virus is often a silent infection and difficult to diagnose. Until lately, Zika was not considered a significant threat since its symptoms are relatively mild. Only two of ten people infected with the virus manifest symptoms, which may include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, and red eyes. Infected patients usually do not have to be hospitalized.
6. Is There A Test To Know If I Have Been Infected?
At this juncture, no particular test is available for Zika infection. Since it is spread by the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and yellow fever, it might cross-react with antibody tests for those viruses. Blood tests can help to detect the diagnosis. While virological PCR tests are useful for the first 3-5 days after the emergence of symptoms, serological tests can detect the existence of antibodies but are active only after five days.
7. Can It Be Transmitted From Mother To Child?
Up to this time, there is little information on transmission from infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. No evidence proves that Zika virus infection can pose a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies. Zika virus often remains in the blood of an infected patient for several days but can be found longer in some people. The virus will not cause infections in a baby who is conceived after the virus is eliminated from the blood. A woman who has recently traveled to a country with local Zika transmission and is trying to become pregnancy should visit her healthcare provider after returning.
8. What Causes Rapid Transmission in an Area?
Scientists so far found out two factors for rapid transmission
- The Aedes mosquito is widespread in the climatic conditions, temperature, and humidity in tropical countries.
- This is a new virus to the Americas, and thus the entire population is vulnerable, lacking defenses to Zika virus.
9. How to Prevent Zika Virus Infection?
Prevention includes reducing mosquito populations and avoiding being bitten, which occur during the day. Eliminating Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding sites helps reduces the risk of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.
- Cover water tanks so that mosquitoes cannot enter.
- Get rid of outdoor containers (bottles, cans, old tires, flower pots, containers, etc.) so that they will not become mosquito breeding sites.
- Avoid accumulating garbage: place it in sealed plastic bags and put it in closed containers.
- Unblock drains that could hold standing water.
- Use screens and mosquito nets on doors and windows to reduce contact between people and mosquitoes.
- Cover exposed skin with hats, trousers, socks, and long-sleeved shirts.
- Use insect repellents recommended by the health authorities.
- Stay in an air-conditioned room if possible.
- Sleep under mosquito nets.
10. What Is PAHO/WHO Response?
- Enhance the capacity of laboratories to identify the virus in a timely fashion (along with other professional associations and experts).
- Advise on risk in correspondence with the introduction of the virus in each country.
- Control the vector by working effectively with the populace to reduce mosquito populations.
- Prepare recommendations for the clinical care in collaboration with centers and strategic partners.
- Support health ministry initiatives with an understanding of the characteristics of the virus, its influence on health, and the possible consequences of the infection.
- Monitor the geographic expansion of virus Zica and the explosion of complications and severe cases through surveillance of events and authorities reporting through the International Health Regulations channel.
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