Do you know about Zika? Have you met it before? I hope you will never meet it in person.

With the aggressive spread of Zika virus, which became an outbreak in many countries around the world recently, we would like to raise people’s awareness specially those who never heard about this virus before. Therefore, we are going to spot the light on the following points:

*What researchers know about Zika so far and what are the main transmitters of the virus?

*Why the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning alert about Zika?

*Finally, how can we protect ourselves and others as there is no official vaccine has been made yet so we have to follow extra precautions to avoid getting infected?

What researchers know about Zika?

  •  First of all, Zika is not new to the scientific world, it made its first appearance in 1947 in Uganda so its name back to the Zika forest in Uganda.

  • Then, the first case infected was reported in 1952 and since then, Zika has been spread enormously in various tropical regions in Africa, The southeast of Asia and The Pacific Islands.

  •  Before 2007, there were about 14 people have been reported, although it is claimed that there were other cases, indeed, which hadn’t been diagnosed and/or reported as the symptoms of the disease is very confused and similar to any fever symptoms or what it resembled.

  •   Zika made its unwelcome visit to our world again on May 2015 in Brazil as the first case was confirmed and from that time till present, Brazil is on the cutting edge of facing one of the fastest outbreaks which left over than a million infected in different cities in Brazil and it has continued its spread in 20 other countries in South and Central America and The Caribbean which led the WHO to issue an alert considering Zika as a public health emergency of international concern.

What is the main contributor for transmitting the virus?

  •  The main source of Zika virus is caused by a bite from an Aedes Aegypti mosquito (Figure 1). This mosquito belongs to a species which is famous with other illnesses like Dengue & Chikungunya.

    a_aegypti_0
    Figure 1:  Aedes Aegypti Mosquito

     

  •  Take care as these mosquitoes are likely to grow near damp water, they are aggressive bitters at any time of the day, but specially increased in daytime and they can be found both outdoors and indoors.

  • The excessive spread of this species in particular (Aedes Aegypti, Aedes Ulbopicus) in areas where they had never visited before, likely happened due to the climate change and global warming. Our climate has changed significantly in the recent years, which helped their re-appearance as these mosquitoes are likely to be driven by temperature. Since temperature recently became warmer and moist in many areas around the globe. These changes created the best habitats for them to expand and survive in different areas.

Other transmitters for Zika:

Researchers also reported that Zika is not only transmitted through the mosquito, but it can also be transferred through:

I. Mother-to-fetus during pregnancy.

II.Blood transfusions.

III.Sexual contact.

I .Mother-to-fetus transmission

  • Pregnant women who are infected with Zika can transfer it to their newborns during pregnancy. The danger arises as some researchers assumed that there is a link between Zika and birth defects in newborns. Brazil since the appearance of Zika has demonstrated a huge increase in the number of newborns with Microcephaly. This birth defect results in smallness of the head size with incomplete brain development (Figure 2).

 

Microcephaly
Figure 2: Microcephaly
  •  Some cases of newborns with Microcephaly died after their birth proved the presence of Zika in their brains. Although there is no official evidence for the link yet but it should be taken into consideration for women who are pregnant or whom likely to be in areas where the virus is spreading.

Prevention:

  • Warnings have been issued for pregnant women to avoid travelling to areas where the virus is active. Check Figure 3.

  •  For women who live in areas where the virus is highly spreading, especially in Latin America were advised to avoid getting pregnant for at least 2 years.

  • As there is no vaccine has been yet discovered, people who travel to areas where Zika is active, they should follow extra precautions in order to protect themselves and others from getting bitten. Check the following link for travel guidance issued by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for pregnant women. zika-pregnancytravel

fIG 3II. Transmission through blood-transfusion

Brazil has recently reported multiple cases with the Zika virus as a result of blood-transfer transmission. Previous evidence collected during the rise of Zika’s spread in French Polynesia in 2013 showed infected cases due to receiving blood from donors who carried the virus in their blood.

Prevention:

  •      Blood centers should update their information regarding the signs, and symptoms of Zika so donors can have a better understanding to assess their case if they had similar symptoms before.

  •     Blood centers should use history donor questionnaire.

  •     They should also ask donors if they recently travelled to areas where the virus is active.

III. Transmission through sexual contact

If your man has travelled recently to an area where the virus is spreading, there’s possibility that he can transfer it to you through sexual intercourse as the virus can be found in their semen, Although, there is no information to prove how long the virus can be staying in their semen but it is certain that the duration is longer than their blood.

Prevention:

Since the symptoms are very mild, a man can’t be aware of carrying the disease, so couples should be very cautious.

Couples with male partners who travelled recently to the area where the virus is active:

  • should use a condom every time they are having sex.

  • If there is doubt about being sick or having the similar symptoms, it is better to avoid having sex for at least 8 weeks after their return.

Couples with a man who recently diagnosed with Zika:

  • should use a condom every time they are having sex.

  • or avoid having sex for at least 6 months after the appearance of the symptoms.

Why Zika is arousing a big concern to World Health Organization?

  • We have mentioned earlier the possible link between Zika and birth defects.

  • There is another risk link between Zika and GBS. (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) which is a disease that decreases the ability of one’s immune system, resulting in damage in the nerve cells, muscle weakness (including the arms, the legs and the muscles of the face) and can lead to paralysis sometimes and difficulty in breathing.

  • Many cases with GBS have been reported in Brazil since the appearance of Zika in the county.

How can we protect ourselves?

As the virus is transferred to humans through the bites of mosquitoes (Aedes Aegypti) once the person got infected, he should avoid further bites for almost 3 weeks as you can play a vital role of transferring it to an uninfected mosquito if you were bitten by it.

*The symptoms of Zika are likely to be:

  1. Fever.

  2. Rash.

  3. Headache.

  4. Joint pain/Muscle pain.

  5. Conjunctivitis (red eyes) and it’s likely to last for a few days to a week after getting bitten.

Prevention (avoid getting bitten):

As there is no vaccine has been made yet for Zika, you should follow extra precautions to avoid getting bitten. This is a brief list of the recommendations issued by CDC:

  •  Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outdoors.

  •  Don’t leave doors and windows open and use mosquito nets.

  •  Use insect repellents (EPA) Follow the instructions on it and apply it as directed.

  •  Use Permethrin on clothing, but avoid using it directly on skin.

    If you have a baby :

  •  Dress them properly and make sure their arms and legs well covered.

  •  Cover their carrier with mosquito nets.

  •  For babies less than 2 years old, never use insect repellent on their skin.

  •  For children over than 2 years old, avoid putting repellent onto their hands as they can have irritation.

Treatment (already bitten)

  • Take a good rest.

  •  Drink plenty of water and fluids to keep you hydrated.

  •  Take medicine such as Paracetamol as a painkiller to reduce fever and headache effect.

  •  Don’t take anti-inflammatory drugs till dengue is ruled out of diagnosing to reduce the risk of bleeding.

  •  If you are taking any medications, it’s better to ask your doctor before taking any other medicines.

Conclusion:

The bottom line that Zika is spreading furiously in our world with no vaccine for it has been discovered yet. We have seen how the virus can be transmitted and we showed some ways which can be applied to protect ourselves from getting bitten with the main carrier of the disease. What makes us calm about Zika that is not deadly above all, but the risk lies from the links between the virus and GBS syndrome and the birth defects which can have severe consequences on humans and newborns in sequence. So all we can do now is to spread the word and share with each one who doesn’t know much about Zika so we can help someone out there.

References: 

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/cdc-role.html

http://www.who.int/about/en/

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