Recently most of us have been reading in the news a lot about the Zika virus disease. It's suspected of causing serious birth defects if transmitted from mother to babies, like abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. So much so that some countries in Latin America have advised against pregnancy till 2018. In extreme cases, it is thought to trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome – a nerve disorder that causes muscle weakness and paralysis. Here are some questions which all of us are rightly curious about:
What is Zika virus disease (Zika)?
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
How is Zika diagnosed?
See your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes). If you have recently travelled, tell your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viral diseases like dengue or chikungunya.
Is there a vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika?
No. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.
Where is it present or expected to spread?
The virus is already present in 21 of the 55 countries and territories across the Americas. It's also expected to spread to all the countries in the North and South America except, Canada and Chile, the WHO said in a statement released on 24 January.
Does India need to worry?
According to a report in The Indian Express, the only time any trace of the virus was recorded in India was in 1952-53. Dr T Mourya, director, National Institute of Virology, Pune, told IE, "there have been no outbreaks in India but passive immunity has been traced in Indian samples in the past."
How to prevent getting infected with Zika Virus?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent is protecting you and your family from mosquito bites. Here’s how:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
- For babies, younger than 2 months don't use insect repellants but cover most of arms and legs, and cover strollers with mosquito nets.