Zika Virus - How You Can Prevent Yourself?
Zika virus causes a deadly disease called Zika fever or Zika virus disease that spreads by the bite of the Aedes mosquito. The Zika virus is a member of the virus family FLAVIVIRIDAE and is closely related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and West Nile viruses. It was isolated in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947 and is known to be prevalent in continents like Africa and Asia primarily, though it’s slowly making headway in the developed world and has spawned the deadly 2015-2016 Zika virus epidemic.
What are symptoms of Zika fever?
People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms which are similar to Dengue, like-
- Red Eye
- Muscle Pain
- Skin Rash
These symptoms usually last for 2-7 days.
Complications of Zika virus disease
According to WHO, Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes congenital brain abnormalities like microcephaly. And the infection can also trigger the Guillain-Barré syndrome. Microcephaly is a condition where a child is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth and the Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which a person’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves which control muscle movement and sensation.
Even as we read this, intense efforts are being expended to investigate the link between Zika virus and a number of other neurological disorders.
How does Zika spread?
The causes of Zika are:
- The bite of the Aedes mosquito that is infected with the Zika virus. This mosquito is the same that spreads dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. It bites primarily in the daytime.
- Unprotected sexual intercourse
- Zika’s transmission through blood transfusion is being investigated.
How can you prevent Zika infection?
Protection against mosquito bites is the most foolproof ways to prevent a Zika virus infection. Other ways to prevent Zika infection via mosquito bites are:
- Just like Dengue prevention, you must cover your body properly, especially during daytime
- Use physical barriers such as window screens or closing doors and windows against the mosquitoes
- Sleep under mosquito nets
- Using insect repellents containing DEET, IR3535 or icaridin
- Take extra care of young children, sick and elderly people
- Cover, empty or clean mosquito breeding sites in and around your house or colony like empty buckets, drums, flower pots and used tyres that can fill-up with water and breed mosquitoes
- Encourage your family and community to support local government efforts to reduce mosquitoes in their localities
- Insist on regular spraying of insecticide for mosquito control in your locality.
For stemming sexual transmission of Zika, the WHO recommends that sexually active men and women be counselled to practice safe sex using condoms. WHO also recommends that people who have come back after travelling from Zika virus zones should be extremely careful in practising safe sex or abstinence for the first 6 months at least, for preventing a pregnancy.
If affected, what is the treatment?
Zika virus disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment as such.
Infected people are advised plenty of rest, asked to drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines like Ibuprofen. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a General Physician.