At the start of this year many countries issued travel warnings for countries affected by the Zika virus and warned pregnant women from going to Brazil, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean region in general.
Jamaica, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador issued recommendations to women to try and avoid pregnancies for the next eight months until more information is gathered about the disease. A year ago no one ever heard about this virus and now it is causing panic and a lot of turmoil not only in the affected countries but also throughout the rest of the world.
The World Health Organization said that the level of concern is high because there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to this virus, calling it a global public health emergency, so each country tried to protect its citizens the best it could. To help you learn more about this current topic here is a list of the 10 things you need to know about the Zika virus.
10. What Is The Zika Virus?
It was first detected in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 when it was isolated from a rhesus macaque monkey by the scientists of the Yellow Fever Research Institute. It was only in 1952 that the first evidences of human infection appeared and the symptoms were rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, joint pains and mild headaches.
The fact that a lot of people seemed to be immune to the virus made the scientists believe that it was widespread on human populations a long time ago and since the symptoms usually went away in less than a week there was no need to spend many resources finding a cure. Now there are links that connect the virus to other conditions and this leads us to the next thing you should know about it.
9. How Has It Spread Through The World?
As we said before it was first discovered in Uganda and was named after the Zika Forest but afterwards there were cases observed in other African countries and even in parts of Asia. In 2007 the first outbreak aside from Africa or Asia started in Micronesia but no hospitalization was needed.
After this event, epidemics were noted in Polynesia, Easter Island, New Caledonia and Cook Islands but we might say that it was somewhat isolated until May 2015 when Brazil announced the detection of the virus on their territory and there it spread at an unprecedented rate. The Aedes mosquitoes are the ones spreading the infection.
8. How Will It Spread In The Future?
The Aedes mosquitoes can live in North America too and it is expected that Puerto Rico and Florida are some of the future places where the disease will spread. The scary thing is that Rio de Janeiro is the host of this year’s Olympic Games and thus the spectators, athletes and tourists that will attend the events are under the threat of contracting the disease and then bringing it to their own country.
According to the World Health Organization, all countries in the Americas will have the disease sometime in the future with the exception of mainland Chile and Canada because the mosquito can’t live there.
7. Symptoms Constantly Change
Although at first only mild fever along with a rash and back pains were the symptoms, over the course of their research on the virus medics noticed that the Guillain-Barre Syndrome might also be linked to Zika. This neurological syndrome can lead to a total paralysis of the body but was seen only in some cases of the disease, so the links are, in the meantime, uncertain.
A more frequent symptom is the fact that this fever causes microcephaly in newborn babies if the mother is infected and this is the most important concern that alarmed everyone.
6. What Is Microcephaly?
The most concerning problem is that this fever is transmitted by the mother to her newborn babies and afflicts them with microcephaly. This neurodevelopmental disorder reduces the size of the child’s cranium and thus their brain will be underdeveloped, making their life expectancy shorter and lowering their brain function.
There is no cure for this problem and the newborns will have frequent seizures along with severe intellectual problems and other neurological defects. This is the main problem for which the virus is considered a much more serious threat today than when it was first discovered.
5. Is The Zika Virus Deadly?
The symptoms of this virus are really concerning, but are they likely to cause the death of those carrying it? So far the only fatal cases are on people that had preexisting conditions that were made worse by the virus. Most of the people infected don’t even notice the symptoms so the threat isn’t too high for them but the transition of the virus to new zones might bring new threats with it.
As with any disease, though, there is a chance that it will mutate in the future and become quite different from the one we know today but in the meantime the most seriously affected are the newborns.
4. Prevention Of Its Spread
Without a solution to cure the disease, so far authorities focused on controlling the mosquitoes that spread the virus and informing the population on how to protect themselves.
The United States has an anti-mosquito program that will probably slow the spread of the disease there and everyone can follow a few guidelines to reduce the risk of infection. The first thing to do is use insect repellent and wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves and the home should have insect shields on all doors and windows.
3. The Virus Can Be Transmitted Through Sexual Intercourse
Even if you didn’t go to a country where the Aedes mosquitoes can be found, there is a chance of contracting the disease through sexual relations as it happened with a few documented cases so far.
The virus can reproduce itself in the semen of a man for up to 10 weeks after he contracted the disease and thus he can carry it further, but it isn’t clear whether women can also transmit the disease to their partners.
2. How To Find Out If You Have Been Infected
There aren’t clear tests available but the symptoms should give it away since they are similar to the yellow fever or dengue fever (both of which are also transmitted by mosquitoes). Fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis are the most common symptoms and muscle pain or headache are also frequent. The incubation period is estimated at around one week.
The problem is that even from the people infected, only one in five even notices the first symptoms so you might have the disease without knowing it. A blood or tissue sample has to be sent to an advanced laboratory to clearly determine if you have the Zika Virus.
1. When Will A Cure Be Available?
Even if there aren’t any cases of the Zika Virus reported in India recently, it was there that scientists claim to have discovered not one, but two vaccines. Their work began a year ago at the start of the epidemic and they are currently testing their results on animals.
Once they are certain of the effect they will probably make the vaccine available. Until then, the symptoms are the only thing you can treat and this is done with a lot of rest, drinking many fluids and taking acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.