Zika virus has become the current talk of the town these days. Let us try to know more about this virus and possible health problems caused by it.
The dreaded Zika Virus
Zika virus disease is a rare but an interesting, unique disease due to its highly infectious character and way of spreading. The virus that causes this disease is called as the Zika virus. Mosquitoes carry this virus into man (mosquitoes are carriers). It has somewhat similar features to the Aedes Aegypti virus (the Dengue virus) and the disease may resemble dengue and chikun gunya. The transmission of this virus is possible through the bite of the dengue mosquito (Aedes Aegypti), sexual transmission and vertical (pregnant mother to child) transmission.
A little History about the Zika Virus
Zika virus was first isolated (found) in the year 1947 in a Rhesus macaque monkey in the forest of Uganda. Zika virus was first found in the belt from Africa to Asia. The latest spread according to records revealed outbreaks in East Asia along the pacific till the French Polynesia in the year 2014. In 2015 it spread to the central islands of America and Caribbean islands.
Affected pregnant mothers are known to transmit the disease to the fetus in the womb giving rise to various birth defects. In January 2016, the US Center for Disease and Control issued travel guidance including precautionary measures for travelers and pregnant females. Pregnant females were advised to post pone their pregnancy till the risks wane off.
The clinical signs and symptoms of Zika Virus Disease pertain to low grades of continuous fever, inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), headache, muscle pain, multiple joint pains (arthralgia) and rashes on the body spreading from above downwards. These symptoms may be experienced after few days or weeks of mosquito bite. These symptoms resemble chikun gunya. One may have mild symptoms and usually hospitalization is not required.
The transmission from the pregnant mother to the child may cause serious birth defects out of which small head circumference (microcephaly) is the commonest manifestation recorded till date. Other defects include small size of the eye ball and calcification (hardness from accumulation of calcium salts) of the other parts of the eyeball.
How can one diagnose Zika virus fever/ disease?
It is difficult to diagnose Zika fever only based on signs and symptoms as they mimic various other diseases. The patients need to undergo certain blood tests as suggested by the WHO (World health organization).
- Test for IgM and IgG (Immunoglobulin’s in the body) from the blood serum.
- The next step is to check for RT- PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) from 1-2 days of the onset of illness.
- The saliva and urine samples also need to be checked within 4-5 days of the illness.
How can you protect yourself from Zika virus fever?
As there is no preventive medicine (vaccine) for Zika fever, certain preventive measures are recommended by the US Center for Disease Control as follows:
- Protection from mosquitoes is the key to prevention. Wear long pants and full sleeves shirt. Using mosquito repellants and removal of stagnant water in and around the house is essential.
- Apply repellant cream on the body before sleep or while stepping out in public places.
- Use a mosquito net while sleeping
- Stay and sleep in mosquito free or air conditioned rooms
- Restrict travelling to the Pacific Islands
- Avoid travelling in early pregnancy
- Above all, follow a healthy diet along with good hydration
Remember Zika virus fever is a not a dangerous disease, it is self limiting and patients usually get recovered within seven days of illness. Nevertheless, it needs symptomatic management like giving medicines to control fever, body ache, headache and malaise. So let’s fight this virus together by communicating about this disease with your friends and family to create awareness.
If you found this information useful, do let us know via your comments below. Alternately you could get in touch us at LifeForce Homeopathy at firstname.lastname@example.org or +91-22-66888888.
Talk Zika, Fight Zika.
-Dr Kanchan Gohil, Associate Doctor to Dr Rajesh Shah, Team LifeForce