The Zika virus disease is a viral disease transmitted through mosquito bites. It primarily occurs in the tropical as well as subtropical areas around the world. Most people show no signs of the disease and recover without any issues. While others suffer from mild symptoms like fever, rash, and pain in muscles and joints. A general feeling of discomfort and conjunctivitis are other symptoms. The infection is dangerous for pregnant women as it affects the unborn baby negatively. The infection can lead to miscarriage or fatal congenital brain condition like microcephaly. In some people, the infection can trigger neurological disorders like Guillain-Barre syndrome.
No specific treatment is available for the infection. While no vaccine is available to prevent the condition, you can take effective steps to prevent the problem. The disease, also referred to as Zika is preventable when you avoid mosquito bites and reduce mosquito habitats. As mosquito bites are the main mode of virus transmission, preventing mosquito bites can stop the spread of the disease. Want to know more about the mosquito-borne viral disease? Then, read ahead.
About Zika Virus Disease
Zika virus disease became the focus of the world when an outbreak occurred in 2015. The path of the infection covered a huge area from South to Central America up to the southern states if the USA in 2016. It caused worldwide panic, making it one of the severe outbreak. Zika is referred to as a new virus. In 1947, scientists isolated the virus from a monkey in the African country of Uganda. At first, scientists believed the virus of constraining to just simian population. But, in 1952, evidence suggested the leap of transmission of the virus from animals to humans. Genetic research suggests the presence of the virus in humans well before the period. It also established the transmission of the virus from person to person through Aedes aegypti mosquito. It is the genus prevalent in tropical as well as subtropical regions around the world.
Symptoms Associated With Zika Virus Disease
Most people suffering from ZIKV infection show no signs or symptoms associated with the disease. In people with symptoms, it occurs three to fourteen days after coming in contact with the virus (usually through bites by an infected mosquito). In adults and children, the virus can trigger symptoms like:
- Mild fever
- Muscle or joint pain
- Other Symptoms
- Apart from the symptoms suggested above, some people can also suffer from other signs like:
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
The virus can affect you from two to seven days. So, you can recover fully from the symptoms after a week.
Symptoms In Pregnant Women
The severity of symptoms is typically related to the reduced size of the child’s head and brain. Many babies born with microcephaly will have no symptoms at birth, but develop epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other problems later in life. In some cases, a child may develop perfectly normally.
The risk of microcephaly to babies is greatest when mothers become infected during the first trimester of pregnancy. By contrast, a Zika infection that occurs during the second or third trimester poses little to no risk of microcephaly.
When To Consult A Doctor
If you see the signs associated with the infection, then see a doctor immediately. It is also necessary to see a doctor when you have traveled to a location with an ongoing ZIKV outbreak. Your doctor performs blood tests to check if you have Zika virus disease, chikungunya or dengue, which is spread by the same species of mosquitoes.
Causes Of Zika Virus Disease
Zika virus disease is caused due to a virus from the Flaviviridae family. The virus known as the Zika virus (ZIKV) is closely associated with other mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and dengue fever. The discovery of the virus occurred in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. Several outbreaks have occurred in different parts of southern and southeastern Asia, America, and the Pacific Islands. The virus transmits to others in the following ways:
ZIKV is transmitted from an infected person to another through mosquito bites. The mosquito belonging to the Aedes species bites a person with the infection, which causes the virus to enter the mosquito. So, when the infected mosquito bites a healthy person, it transmits ZIKV into the person’s bloodstream. This mode of transmission is the most common one as the Aedes mosquito is present in different parts of the world.
Pregnant women infected by the virus can pass ZIKV to the unborn baby. So, when a woman becomes infected at any stage of the pregnancy, it causes the spread of ZIKV.
The virus can transmit from one person to another through unprotected sex. So, sexual contact (oral, vaginal, or anal) without using any protection (like a condom) can lead to the Zika virus disease.
The virus can transmit when the blood or platelets from an infected person is given to a patient. Untested blood transfusion increases the risk of viral infection.
While no evidence exists suggesting the transmission of the viral infection through breast milk, a new mother with the infection needs to consult their doctor.
Risk Factors Linked To Zika Virus Disease
Everyone is not vulnerable to the infection caused by ZIKV. The factors putting you at greater risk of the disease are:
Living/Traveling To Countries With Zika Outbreak
People who live or travel to tropical, as well as subtropical areas, increases your risk of exposure to ZIKV. The high-risk areas prone to ZIKV outbreak include the different countries in the following regions:
- South America
- North America
- Central America
- Pacific Region
- Islands near West Africa
Since Aedes mosquitoes causing the main transmission of the virus are present in several parts of the world, the outbreaks can spread to new regions. The mosquitoes are found in certain parts of the USA. Most of the Zika virus disease cases are reported in travelers who return to the US after visiting the outbreak-prone regions. But, local transmission cases are also reported in certain parts of the USA and in regions of Puerto Rico.
If you have a male partner who has traveled to a ZIKV outbreak probe region, then they pass the virus through their semen while having unprotected sex. A couple that includes a male and female partner can contract the disease when they visit a region prone to ZIKV outbreak. Having unprotected sex can cause virus transmission. To avoid such transmission, it is better to start using a condom for all sexual contact. Abstaining from sex for two months can also prevent the transmission. Pregnant women need to abstain from sex or use condoms with their partner if he has visited an area of active ZIKV transmission.
Complications Linked To Zika Virus Disease
Zika virus disease can cause different complications. Depending on the person it affects, the complications include:
Complications In Pregnant Women
Pregnant women who suffer from ZIKV disease have a high possibility of infecting their unborn child with the virus. So, it causes miscarriage or birth defects. The range of negative effects ZIKV has on a fetus remains under investigation. But, the most common complication is, it prevents normal brain development. So, the unborn child faces the following:
- Severe microcephaly (abnormally small head size) with a partially collapsed skull
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems due to eye damage
- Brain damage or reduced brain tissue resulting in cognitive and developmental disorders
- Reduced body movement because of enhanced muscle tone after the birth of the child
- The joint problem, which can include limited motion
Complication In Adults
In adults, the Zika virus disease can result in the development of a rare neurological condition referred to as Guillain-Barre syndrome. It is a rare neurological disorder triggering temporary paralysis. In some cases, it can cause severe complications. So, affected people need to spend extended time in the hospital. Some people need breathing support. While most people recover from the syndrome, it can take several months for muscle function to restore.
Diagnosis Of Zika Virus Disease
If you see the symptoms associated with the ZIKV disease, then see a doctor immediately. In most of the cases, the doctor confirms the diagnosis based on the signs and your travel history. A person living or visiting areas with ZIKV transmission or the presence of Aedes mosquito vectors face a high risk of developing the disease. But, a confirmation is based only on lab tests of your blood or other body fluids like urine or semen sample. So, a person with a suspected infection need to undergo the following:
Physical Assessment And Medical History
Your doctor assesses your symptoms by performing a physical examination. You need to inform the doctor regarding your medical and travel history. It is important to mention your international trips in detail. Inform the doctor about the countries you have visited in the past three months along with the dates. If you have a partner, then it is essential to inform their travel history. Inform the doctor regarding the exposure of mosquitoes.
Eliminate Other Conditions
Zika virus disease can mimic other similar diseases spread by chikungunya virus or dengue as they are spread by the same type of mosquitoes. So, it is essential to eliminate the possibility of other diseases. Therefore, talk to your doctor regarding the blood or urine test to diagnose the condition conclusively.
Lab Tests To Diagnose
You need to offer a sample of your blood or urine for testing. The following tests are performed to detect the virus and its effects on your body:
Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction can check for the presence of the virus in your blood or urine within two or fewer times of exposure to ZIKV. The test kits can detect real-time RNA of ZIKV from the sample provided.
Anti-Immunoglobulin (M) is the largest as well as the first antibody to appear in your blood as a response to ZIKV exposure. The test is usually opted for after two to twelve weeks of ZIKV exposure. So, if you have traveled to a location three months back with the suspected ZIKV outbreak, then you can take the test to detect the virus presence. It is impossible to determine ZIKV exposure in the distant past (after twelve weeks).
Tests For Pregnant Women With Zika Virus Disease
If you are pregnant and suspect the exposure, then you need to consult your doctor. You need to inform about your recent travel history to detect if you have stayed or visited areas with the ZIKV outbreak. Testing is offered two to twelve weeks after you return. Suspected exposure cases, irrespective of positive, negative or inconclusive results need to undergo the following tests:
- An ultrasound test to check the growth of the fetus and detect microcephaly. ZIKV can affect the brain of unborn babies, leading to severe abnormalities. So, the imaging test helps detect issues with the brain of the fetus.
- Offer amniocentesis (the procedure to extract a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus using a hollow needle). The sample is used to screen for ZIKV.
While other tests may not cause any complications, amniocentesis has some risk of miscarriage. So, you need to talk to your doctor regarding the complications.
Treatment For Zika Virus Disease
You have no specific treatment available for the Zika virus disease. The disease caused by ZIKV needs to run its course. So, only supportive treatment is available for patients suffering from the infection. These treatments aim to relieve the symptoms. So, the treatment aims to meet the following:
- Treat the symptoms like fever, joint pain or other discomforts. So, take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol or others) to get relief from the discomfort.
- Get good rest as the infection can make you tired. So, getting rest and avoiding any hard task can help your body heal well.
- ZIKV can cause havoc in your body. The infection can trigger dehydration due to loss of fluids from your body. So, to avoid complications due to dehydration, you need to drink fluids.
- While recovering from the infection avoid taking aspirin and other NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). It is to rule out dengue fever and reduce the risk of bleeding.
Remember, it is important to consult a doctor to get the necessary advice while recovering from the condition. It is because the infection or OTC medications can trigger severe complications when you suffer from any underlying health conditions. So, talk to your healthcare provider before taking any medication.
Preventing Zika Virus Disease
Since you have no vaccine available to prevent the disease caused by ZIKV, it is important to prevent the infection. Instead of worrying about the disease after contracting it, it is better to prevent it from infecting you. So, you need to follow several preventive measures:
Guidelines For Pregnant Women
Pregnant women who are planning to travel to the area with a suspected outbreak of ZIKV need to consult the doctor to get more information regarding the risk of contracting the disease. It is better women who are pregnant drop their travel plan as the disease can harm their and their unborn baby’s health. Similarly, pregnant women must practice safe sex or abstain from physical intercourse if their partner has traveled to a location with the ZIKV outbreak.
Are you planning to get pregnant? Then, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your upcoming travel plans in detail. You can assess any risks associated with your travel and the high chances of contracting the infection. If you have to proceed with your travel plan, then the doctor suggests you and your partner to wait to try for a baby for several months before conceiving.
Practice Safe Sex
If you or your partner suspect the presence of ZIKV, then you need to maintain caution while having sex. Practice safe sex and use a condom to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. It is essential when you or your partner have traveled recently to areas experiencing an outbreak of the infection. Abstaining from sex until you get cleared of the infection is also ideal to prevent the spreading of the infection.
Prevent Mosquito Bites
If you are traveling to or living in a tropical region with a high risk of ZIKV, then you need to follow some tips to prevent mosquito bites. Virus transmission occurs when an infected mosquito bites you. So, you have to take the following steps to reduce mosquito bites:
Stay in an A/C Room
Try to stay in an air-conditioned room when you visit virus-infected regions. Mosquitoes cannot breed or stay in areas with low temperatures. So, find a place with less mosquito activity.
Find A Well-Screened Housing
If it is difficult to find a place with AC, the find a place that is well-screened. Mosquitoes are active from dawn to dusk, but they can also bite people at night. So, sleep under a mosquito net. Avoid camping outside. If you must stay, then use a mosquito-repellent treated mosquito bed net.
Wear Protective Clothing
When you go out, try to cover your skin. It is because exposed parts of the skin can offer easy access to mosquitoes. So, you need to wear a long-sleeved shirt to cover your arms, long pants, socks, and shoes to cover your feet.
Use Mosquito Repellent
You can apply permethrin on your clothing, accessories, camping gear, shoes, and bed netting. Buying pre-treated clothing with permethrin already in it can avoid mosquito bites. But, permethrin is not ideal to use on your skin. For protecting your exposed skin, you can use mosquito repellent containing DEET. Check of products containing at least 10% concentration of DEET for maximum effectiveness. While most of the mosquito repellent is effective and safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, you also have natural options. Lemon eucalyptus offers similar effects like DEET without any harmful effects. So, you can make a choice based on your needs.
Reduce Mosquito Habitat
Mosquitoes can transmit the disease to healthy people. Since the mosquitoes carrying the virus can breed in your home or surrounding areas, you need to find the habitat to destroy them. So, find places with stagnant/standing water. Remove things collecting water like flower pots, animal dishes, or used automobile tire or clean them regularly to reduce breeding habitats. It will reduce the mosquito population.
Prevent Zika Virus Disease Through Blood Transfusion
While donating blood can save lives, all donations need screening to prevent the spread of ZIKV through blood transfusion. So, you need to follow the guidelines suggested while donating blood to others in areas with no active outbreaks of ZIKV. You must avoid donating blood for four weeks when you experience any of the following:
- Have a history of ZIKV infection.
- You have a recent travel history or live in an area with active ZIKV transmission or an outbreak.
- Suffer from signs or symptoms indicating the presence of infection within two weeks of your travel to an area experiencing the Zika virus disease outbreak.
- You have sexual relations with a partner suffering from ZIKV infection.
- Have sexual contact with a person who has recently (in the past three months) traveled or lived in an area suffering from the ZIKV outbreak.
It is not ideal to donate blood when you have suspected the infection as it increases the spread of the disease.
Zika virus disease can trigger fear in your minds. It is true for pregnant women as the infection can cause severe complications to the unborn baby. Instead of panicking when you receive a mosquito bite, you need to act cautiously. Mosquito bites may not transmit the disease. But, see your doctor when you suspect the disease. Most of the affected pregnancies does no result in harm or birth defects. So, get medical assistance to spot any problems early. Become aware of the factors that increase your risk and take the necessary steps to avoid infection.View Article Sources