Monday, April 15, 2024

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys, and the first human cases were reported in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Since then, Zika virus has spread to various regions around the world, including parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.

Zika virus infection in humans is usually mild and asymptomatic, with approximately 80% of infected individuals experiencing no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are typically mild and may include:
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Malaise (feeling unwell)

These symptoms usually last for several days to a week and are similar to those of other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and chikungunya. In most cases, Zika virus infection resolves on its own without complications.

However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can pose serious risks to the developing fetus. In pregnant women, Zika virus can be transmitted to the fetus and cause congenital Zika syndrome, a range of birth defects that may include microcephaly (abnormally small head size), brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and other neurological and developmental problems.

In addition to mosquito bites, Zika virus can also be transmitted through other routes, including:

Sexual transmission: Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner, even if the infected person does not have symptoms. The virus can be present in semen for several weeks to months after infection.

Maternal-fetal transmission: Zika virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or childbirth, leading to congenital Zika syndrome.

Blood transfusion and organ transplantation: Although rare, Zika virus can be transmitted through blood transfusion or organ transplantation from an infected donor.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of Zika virus infection include:Using insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or other EPA-approved ingredients.
Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Using screens or bed nets to prevent mosquito bites while sleeping.
Emptying and cleaning containers that collect water to prevent mosquito breeding.
Using condoms or abstaining from sex to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus, especially for pregnant women or couples planning pregnancy.

There is currently no specific antiviral treatment for Zika virus infection, and management typically involves supportive care to alleviate symptoms. Pregnant women infected with Zika virus should receive specialized medical care to monitor the health of the fetus and manage any complications associated with congenital Zika syndrome.


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