Zika outbreak is growing in the Caribbean and Latin America. It has spread to almost 24 countries and infected more than 4 million people until now. The virus is being borne by the Aedes mosquito and was first found in Uganda. Sporadic cases were reported prior to 2007 in Asia and Africa but presently the disease is on the rise with its first case recently found in Denmark as well. UN declared it as a Global emergency because it is spreading far and wide while posing devastating consequences.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika virus was first found in 1947 in Uganda’s Zika forest. According to WHO, the symptoms are flu-like which mostly include joint pain, fever, rash, headache and conjunctivitis. Only one in five who are infected become ill due to this virus. There is no apparent danger in most cases and the fever and other symptoms subsides in a few days, and the patient won't even know about it. No medication has been developed for the disease yet, so over-the-counter pills are prescribed by doctors for symptomatic relief.
Doctors have also noted an association of Zika cases with a neurological paralytic disease called Guillian-Barre syndrome. A pregnant woman specially in the first trimester is at the highest risk of getting infected. If a pregnant woman is tested positive for Zika virus, the unborn child is likely to be born with Microcephaly - a neurological disorder wherein children are born with small heads. In this disease the child suffers from mental retardation which delays movement, growth and speech and can even cause death. In 2015, there have been around 3500 new cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone and it is suspected that the mothers of these babies had been infected by the Zika virus.
How can it be prevented?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued warnings to pregnant women who are traveling to areas affected by the Zika virus. In fact, health officials are advising women in the highly affected countries not to conceive for at least the next two years. The virus does not have a vaccine yet which is making the situation critical for the uninfected people. The Aedes mosquito which is the carrier can be found in nearly more than 60 percent of the United States. Researchers are working hard towards finding a vaccination which can control the situation. Incidentally all the cases that have been found in the USA have been imported by people who have been travelling to the countries affected by Zika. The infected people were possibly bitten by the local mosquitoes which has caused the virus to spread.
In the absence of vaccination, it is important that mosquito repellents are used outdoors as well as indoors. Wearing fully covered clothes is also a good option for preventing a mosquito bite. Stagnant waters which are the most common sites for breeding should be cleaned regularly and pesticides should be sprinkled to prevent the mosquitoes from multiplying.
Video Credits: AJ+