Zika Virus

By MicroHealth | Feb 13, 2019

Zika virus belongs to the family of viruses known as Flaviviridae. This virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that carries the dengue virus. This virus was first isolated from monkeys in 1947. It derives its name from the Zika forest of Uganda from where it was first isolated. Zika virus causes disease that last for a few days to week. To broadly mention, this virus is related to yellow fever, west Nile, dengue and Japanese encephalitis viruses.

Occurrence of Zika virus

The majority of Zika virus cases are reported in tropical regions like Brazil, Colombia, Suriname and Paraguay etc. The cities having tropical like climate (Houston, New Orleans in USA) may also have possibility of existence of Zika virus.

Zika infected mosquitoes are common in places where there is high level of poverty, warmer lowlands and warmer temperature persists.

Transmission of the virus

Usually Zika virus is transmitted by an infected mosquito acting as a vector during mosquito bite. There are rare chances of transmittance of virus from person to person.

Speaking broadly the virus is not contagious. It requires a mosquito vector to pass the culprit from human to human. But theoretically blood transfusions by infected individual may allow rare person to person transmittance. Other possible ways being sexual intercourse and from mother to child during pregnancy.

Treatment of Zika virus

Neither treatment nor vaccines against the mysterious Zika viruses are available up till now. There are not any rapid test available for the detection of this virus. However, some biotech companies claim to provide a sensitive and a rapid test for the detection of Zika virus or antibodies against it

  • Infected people should rest.
  • As dehydration is one amongst the consequences of infection, the patient must increase the fluid intake to avoid dehydration.
  • Pain killing medications such as acetaminophen and paracetamols should be used.

The CDC advises against the use of aspirin or other (non-steroidal) anti-inflammatory medications that until the possibility for dengue fever is ruled out. Otherwise using aspirin may lead to hemorrhage.

Prevention against Zika virus

Stated earlier mosquitoes are the vectors for the transmission of Zika virus so preventing mosquito bites may help to prevent the viral infection. Aedes mosquito bites are reported during the day, both indoors and outdoors.

Following protective measures are recommended by health care professionals in order to stay infection free.

  • Avoid the places where the mosquitoes breed
  • Destroy the breeding places of mosquitoes keeping in mind the preventive points.
  • Wear clothes that cover most of the body parts and skin.
  • Use mosquito repellents as instructed on the product label
  • Sleep and rest in screened and air-conditioned rooms. Otherwise use mosquito nests that are treated with insecticidal agents, even when its day.
  • Very similar protective measures are also applied to a symptomatic patient so that during biting process non-infected mosquitos do not pick the culprit.

Zika fever

Zika fever or Zika virus disease is an illness induced by Zika virus. The fever in general leads to macculo papular rash. Zika fever is considered to be an emerging infectious disease.

There is yet no treatment or vaccine for the protection against Zika virus infection therefore preventive measures are recommended to steer clear of mosquito bites during day time.

Clinical features

  • The reported incubation period of Zika virus ranges from three to twelve days following the bite of an infected mosquito.
  • Almost all the cases are reported to be asymptomatic
  • Manifested symptoms are usually mild, and the disease is characterized by febrile illness of 4-7 days that is short lasting and self-limiting. These symptoms have low rate of fatalities and hospitalization. Rarely, complications like severe dehydration may also lead to death of the victim.
  • The most common symptoms are fever, arthralgia, fatigue, maculopapular rash, myalgia headache and conjuctival hyperaemia. Of these maculopapular rash starts on the face following dissemination throughout the whole body. Some cases of gastro-intestinal signs and retro orbital pain are also reported.

Diagnosis of infection

Most of the patients are unaware of the disease even after the manifestation of symptoms. Proper checkups and tests run by the health care professionals are always necessary for the detection of the virus.

  • Diagnosis of Zika virus disease in acutely ill patients rests upon the detection of viral RNA by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR test).
  • As the viraemic period is short so Zika virus in infected patients can be detected in the time between 3-5 days after the onset of symptoms. Cases representing the detection of Zika virus from the urine of infected patients 10 days after the onset of disease have also been reported.
  • Five days after the onset of disease serological investigation can be run which shows the presence of Zika specific IgM antibodies which are further confirmed by neutralization techniques.
  • The serological results must always be interpreted in consonance with the vaccination status and any quondam exposure to the flaviviral infections

Zika virus and pregnancy

Reports collected by world health organization (WHO) show that Zika virus is related to microcephaly i.e. a developmental defect of infants. Microcephaly is represented by a disabling developmental condition in which baby has a smaller head than assumed. It was found that their mothers during pregnancy were infected by the Zika virus. Because of these reasons CDC has recommended several preventive measures including the postponement of trips by the pregnant women in any trimester to the areas where Zika virus outbreak is ongoing.

If at all they must travel they should seek their health care provider first and strictly follow the points to avoid mosquito bites during day.


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