The Truth About Zika: Zika Virus Facts

Once again, small mosquitoes put the world in red alert. New infections multiply around the world, and added precaution is necessary before traveling abroad. The ongoing epidemic in the Americas and Pacific region has caused Zika to be labelled a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. Although the symptoms of the resulting disease are usually mild and short, virus infection poses a major threat to the babies of pregnant woman. There is still no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus infection, so prevention is key to minimize the spread and the risk to public health.


Background

The virus was isolated for the first time in 1947 in the Zika forest, Uganda (from which it took its name). Five years later, it was detected in humans in Tanzania and Uganda. By 2007, there were only small outbreaks recorded in Southeast Asia and Africa. In 2013, the virus arrived in France. The first serious cases in the Pacific Islands and South America occurred in 2015. Concerns about the threat of a worldwide Zika pandemic increased during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shortly after the event, multiple infections have been reported in several other countries.

Zika is a virus belonging to the Flaviviridae family. Its main vectors, i.e., the mosquitoes that transmit the virus, belong to the Aedes genus. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, for example, are also vectors of dengue and yellow fever. The virus has an incubation period of a few days, and the resulting fever may resemble a cold.


How Is The Zikka Virus Transmitted?

Zika virus is transmitted to humans mainly by mosquito bite. A small number of sexual transmissions have been confirmed in the United Sates. Infected mothers may pass the virus to babies through perinatal transmission. There is also a potential risk of transmission through blood transfusion.

Transmission of the virus rarely occurs at temperatures below 16 ºC. Transmission is more common between 30 ºC and 32 ºC in tropical or subtropical areas. However, the eggs that carry the embryos of vector mosquitoes can withstand drought for one year and be transported over long distances to find wetter environments for development. Zika vectors (Aedes genus) resemble normal mosquitoes, measuring less than a centimeter long. They are brown or black with white stripes over the body and legs. To escape the hot sun, they usually bite in the early morning or late afternoon.

Bites do not cause pain or itching, and may occur on the knee, calf or foot. After the mosquito bite, incubation typically lasts 3 to 12 days. In about 60 to 80% of Zika infections, no symptoms develop.


Symptoms Of Zika Fever

Zika fever is the disease caused by the virus. Its symptoms are similar to those of dengue, although less severe. They disappear after four to seven days. This should not preclude a hypothetical visit to the doctor. These are the most frequent symptoms:

  • Maculopapular rash (red spots which start on the face and may spread throughout the body)
  • Polyarthralgia (joint pain)
  • Low-grade fever (37.8 ºC to 38.5 ºC)
  • Headache of moderate intensity (located behind the eyes)
  • Malaise
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye, red, stinging, tearing, eyelid edema and presence of yellow exudate)
  • Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
  • Asthenia (lack of energy)

Since this disease can be confused with the flu, a differential diagnosis with dengue and influenza might be necessary.

Other less common symptoms that may arise include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, generalized itching and thrush.


Treatment of Zika fever

Treatment of this disease is very similar to the treatment of dengue, and requires the implementation of supportive measures:

  • Intake of antihistamine
  • Intake of antipyretic
  • Eye drops (three to six times a day)
  • Rest (seven days)
  • Vitamin and mineral-rich food
  • Water intake in large quantities

 

Of course, as mentioned, intake of vitamins and supplements such as CBD oil can only help and keep your body and immune system strong and healthy. While not officially confirmed for Zika treatment, CBD oil has shown great promise in boosting overall health.


Complications for pregnant women

Zika virus infection is particularly worrisome to pregnant women owing to several reported cases of congenital anomalies (microcephaly or eye abnormalities) in fetuses and newborns of mothers who were exposed to the virus in the first six months of pregnancy. The causal link between the virus and these anomalies is being studied. Nevertheless, pregnant women who have been to or live in any of the most affected areas should contact their obstetricians and family doctors for routine/casual screenings.


Prevention

  • Avoiding mosquito bites
  • Wear repellent and clothing that protects the upper and lower limbs (elective sites for the mosquito bite)
  • Give priority to air conditioned accommodation
  • Use mosquito nets
  • Proper removal of waste
  • Avoid stagnant water
  • Cleaning of objects intended for feeding cats or dogs
  • Use filters in the drains of tubs and gardens
  • Use sand plant pots
  • Avoid open windows at dawn and dusk
  • Avoid traveling to risk areas
  • If traveling, follow the recommendations of the authorities at the destination country
  • Pregnant women should not move around in affected areas. If it's absolutely necessary, preliminary counseling with the doctor or travel/foreign health agency is mandatory.
  • Returning from risk areas - Screening sessions with comprehensive analysis and ultrasound should be performed.

 

If infected, non-pregnant women should seek immediate care while avoiding sexual relations and becoming pregnant for 28 days. Likewise for men. Similar care should be taken if either one returns from an affected area.