The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency. There have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October.The infection has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains.
WHO director general, Margaret Chan called Zika an “extraordinary event” that needed a co-ordinated response.
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- The mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is causing widespread fear in Brazil where it is spreading the Zika virus that has been linked to thousands of babies being born with birth defects.
- It was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947.The first human case was detected in Nigeria in 1954
- It is one of those animals, like cockroaches, pigeons and urban foxes, that thrives in built up areas.
- It lays its eggs near small pools of stagnant water such as gutters, flower pots or bowls.
- The eggs can even survive months of drying out.
Countries Affected By Zika Virus:
- Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
- In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil.
- Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries.
- Zika virus will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time.
Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, US territory, CostaRica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela
- About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
- The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
- Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
- Link to microcephaly
In December 2015, it was suspected that a transplacental infection of the fetus may lead to microcephaly and brain damage In December 2015, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued a comprehensive update on the possible association of Zika virus with congenital microcephaly. The U.S. CDC states that, “There have been reports of congenital microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Zika virus infections have been confirmed in several infants with microcephaly; it is not known how many of the microcephaly cases are associated with Zika virus infection.”
Other neurological complications :
In a French Polynesian epidemic, 73 cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome and other neurologic conditions occurred in a population of 270,000, which may be complications of Zika virus.
- Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
- Deaths are rare.
- The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
- See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
- If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.
- Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
- No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.
- Treat the symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
- If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites[PDF – 2 pages] for the first week of your illness.
- During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
- An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
- Always follow the product label instructions
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- If you have a baby or child:Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
If you have Zika, protect others from getting sick
- During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
- To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
Information for travelers
- Traveling? Visit CDC’s Travelers Health website to see if the country you plan to visit has any travel health notices.
What is being done?
The Brazilian Health Minister, Marcelo Castro, has said a new testing kit is being developed to identify infections quickly. He also said more money was being put into the development of a vaccine.
Some scientists are also trialling the use of genetically modified sterile mosquitoes that appear to reduce mosquito populations by 90%. Meanwhile, efforts are under way to kill the mosquitoes with insecticide.