The Zika virus is an infection transmitted by mosquito bites, particularly from the Aedes mosquito. Ordinarily, the symptoms, which include mild fever, skin rash, and conjunctivitis, last up to one week and will resolve on their own. However, the Zika virus is also known to cause congenital microcephaly in pregnant women, a condition characterized by reduced head size and brain damage in developing fetuses. It is not yet understood how the Zika virus causes this defect.The first confirmed cases came from Brazil, although the virus has spread to Central America, with outbreaks also emerging in parts of the Pacific Islands and Africa. Travelers to Central and South America are advised to take precautions such as using insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets in order to prevent further transmission.
The first confirmed cases came from Brazil, although the virus has spread to Central America, with outbreaks also emerging in parts of the Pacific Islands and Africa. Travelers to Central and South America are advised to take precautions such as using insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets in order to prevent further transmission.Why is it called the Zika virus?
Why is it called the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is so-named due to the work of scientists in the late 1940s. At that time, scientists were researching yellow fever in the Zika Forest in Uganda (the word Zika translates to overgrown in the Luganda language). The researchers placed a Rhesus monkey inside a cage in the Zika Forest and noted how the monkey developed a fever. On subsequent analysis, it was determined the causative agent was not the virus that causes yellow fever. In fact, it was another virus that they termed Zika virus. The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, a mosquito that is only active during the day.What does the Zika virus cause?
What does the Zika virus cause?
For anyone other than pregnant women, the Zika virus is usually quite harmless. It typically results in mild fever, conjunctivitis, muscle pains and aches, fatigue, headache, and rash. On average, these symptoms are present for 7-10 days. However, some patients have reported more serious symptoms and required hospitalization. Incidences of this are quite rare though.
The Zika virus is thought to be linked to congenital microcephaly. Women who contract the Zika virus during pregnancy are likely to transmit the infection to the developing fetus, leading to reduced head circumference and brain damage. Neonates born with microcephaly are associated with a reduced life expectancy. In some cases, neonates die shortly after birth, such is the extent of the brain damage involved
Where is the Zika virus?
The spread of the Zika virus is currently ongoing. The World Health Organization has issued a global pandemic warning risk if efforts are not taken to curtail its spread. The current outbreak began in Brazil, and it has since spread to neighboring South American, Central American, and Caribbean countries.
The Zika virus has also spread to parts of Africa, such as the Cape Verde islands and to some Pacific islands and the United States. Travelers from Central and South America have spread the virus to Europe, with cases now reported in Denmark, the UK, and Germany. Current events suggest that the virus is likely to spread further until its host countries take steps to inhibit the mosquito's effects.
How to prevent transmission?
Pregnant women or women who are likely to or want to become pregnant are advised to avoid travel to Central and South America. Some Central American countries, such as Honduras, have advised women to avoid pregnancy for up to 8 months. Male travelers must also be aware that the Zika virus is sexually transmitted.
Travelers to South and Central America are advised to take measures to avoid mosquito bites. This includes wearing light-colored clothing, wearing insect repellent, and using mosquito nets while sleeping. Travelers are also advised to avoid the hottest part of the day, as it is then that the Aedes mosquito is most active.