Health Care

Zika Virus Disease: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Zika Virus Disease is primarily transmitted to humans through mosquito bites in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Cases of Zika Virus Disease are most common in tropical climates. Zika Virus Disease is also known as Zika, Zika fever, or Zika virus disease.

The majority of people infected with the virus show no signs or symptoms. Some people experience a mild fever, rash, and muscle pain.

Even in people who show no symptoms of infection, the virus can cause brain or nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome in rare cases. There is currently no treatment for the virus.

Women who become infected with the virus while pregnant are more likely to miscarriage. Infection with the virus during pregnancy also increases the risk of serious birth defects in infants, including microcephaly, a potentially fatal brain condition.

Discovery Of Zika Virus Disease

The virus is a flavivirus which spread by mosquitos that was discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. It was later discovered in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania in 1952.

Zika virus outbreaks have been reported in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. From the 1960s to the 1980s, only a few sporadic cases of human infections were discovered in Africa and Asia, usually accompanied by mild illness.

The first virus disease outbreak was reported in 2007 on the island of Yap (Federated States of Micronesia). This was followed in 2013 by a large outbreak of virus infection in French Polynesia and other Pacific countries and territories.

Brazil reported a large outbreak of rash illness in March 2015, which was quickly identified as Zika virus infection and, in July 2015, was linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Causes And Transmission Of Zika Virus

Zika virus infection is a mosquito-borne viral infection. It is spread by mosquitos of the Aedes genus, most chiefly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitos usually bite during the day.

Various modes of transmission of zika virus are:

  • Mosquito bite
  • Vertical transmission (maternal-foetal)
  • Blood-borne
  • Sexual transmission

The Zika virus is most commonly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Two aedes species mosquitoes are known to carry the virus and can be found all over the world.

When a mosquito bites a person who is already infected with the Zika virus, the mosquito becomes infected with the virus. The virus then enters the bloodstream of the person who is bitten by the infected mosquito and causes an infection.

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The Zika virus can also be passed from mother to foetus during pregnancy.

Physical intercourse can also spread the virus from one person to another.

In some cases, people become infected with the virus after receiving a blood transfusion or donating an organ.

Zika Virus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Symptoms Of Zika Virus Disease

Not everyone who is infected develops symptoms. The incubation period of Zika virus disease (the time between exposure and onset of symptoms) is estimated to be 3–14 days. Within two weeks of being bitten, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle ache
  • Lack of energy
  • Physical weakness
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

The symptoms are usually mild and affect only one out of every five infected people. Only about 20% of people infected with the Zika virus experience symptoms, and the symptoms are usually mild.

It is uncommon for a Zika virus infection to result in hospitalisation or death. Although the majority of people recover without complications, there have been reports of neurological complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.

Microcephaly and other birth defects can be caused by the Zika virus in babies born to women who were infected while pregnant. Microcephaly is a rare birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than expected, which can be linked to brain development issues.

Complications

Pregnant women who are infected with the Zika virus have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and stillbirth. Infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy also increases the risk of serious birth defects in infants (congenital Zika syndrome), such as 

  • A much smaller than normal brain and head size (microcephaly), with a partially collapsed skull.
  • Brain damage and shrinkage of brain tissue
  • Eye damage
  • Joint issues, such as limited motion
  • Reduced body movement as a result of excessive muscle tone after birth

Adults infected with the Zika virus may develop brain or nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, even if they show no signs of infection.

Treatment

Infection with the Zika virus does not have a specific treatment. There is only conservative therapy available.

A person with symptoms should:

  • Plenty of rest
  • Increase fluid intake to prevent dehydration
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers to relieve pain and fever

The infection’s symptoms can be treated; for example, a doctor or pharmacist may recommend to take acetaminophen for fever and headache, as well as rest and fluids, to help early recovery.

Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen) should be avoided until dengue has been ruled out to prevent risk of hemorrhage. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne infection that causes similar symptoms.

In case of pregnancy

Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with Zika should be considered for foetal growth and anatomy monitoring every 3 to 4 weeks.

They are advised to see a doctor who specialises in pregnancy management, infectious disease, or maternal-foetal medicine.

Summary

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Aedes mosquitoes, unlike malaria-carrying mosquitoes, are most active during the day. Mosquito nets, for example, are ineffective as a barrier method of prevention. Mosquitoes can live in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Although the symptoms of infection are mild, but if a pregnant woman contracts the virus, it can have serious consequences for the pregnancy and the unborn child.

In most cases, the symptoms of Zika virus infection are mild. There is no treatment available for zika, individuals had to follow conservative treatment without choice. People suffering from symptoms such as fever, rash, or arthralgia should rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take common pain and fever medications. If their symptoms worsen, they should seek medical attention.

A key component of Zika virus prevention is avoiding mosquito bites.

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