Zika Virus – It’s Serious

52246921_sThe Zika Virus has rushed the headlines recently with varying claims of seriousness. Claims range from the new Ebola or Bird flu to a cold. The one of the largest claims is that this is a new disease, which is completely wrong. This article will help clear up some of those hype myths.

What is Zika Virus?

It was discovered in 1947 in Uganda. The first species jump to humans was documented in 1952. The current outbreak has been active since early 2015, though there was a recent outbreak in 2013 as well.

How is it spread?

Traditionally the virus is spread through bites from a specific species of mosquito called Aedes Mosquitos. Recently it has been confirmed that the virus can be passed through unprotected sex, and pregnant mothers can pass the virus to their unborn children. It has been linked but not confirmed to cause of Microcephaly in newborns. Some countries claim that it can be passed through blood transfusion, but the CDC has yet to confirm that.

Where is the Zika Virus?

Since the virus is transmitted mainly through mosquitos, it is limited to their natural habitat. Usually the virus is found in tropical areas around Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The Americas’ outbreaks are usually confined to South America, but because of travel, it is making its way north.

Diagnosis:

Zika does not present severe symptoms. Most people who get it don’t realize they’ve gotten anything other than the flu. It can be diagnosed with blood tests if someone believes they have it.

Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Red eyes
  • Malaise or general discomfort
  • Rash
  • Headache

Treatment:

It works similar to most viruses. Once you have it, you are immune to catching it again because the antibodies stay in your system. There is no cure or specified treatment for Zika virus, though there is a supplement currently being designed at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia that will ease the symptoms. For now doctors prescribe lots of rest, fluids, and taking an over the counter medication for pain, but not anything that contains NSAIDs.

Prevention:

There is no vaccine or cure for Zika Virus. Right now doctors recommend not traveling to countries that are currently active in the epidemic, especially pregnant woman or their spouses. The CDC keeps travel alerts for countries that are actively part of the epidemic. If you have to travel, there are some precautions that can be taken. As with the risk of any virus, your immune system is the first line of defense. It’s best to make sure you keep any regimens for boosting your immune system on track. Wearing clothing that covers as much as your body as possible, physical barriers like netting, and clothing treated with Permethrin can prevent you from being bitten. Try to stay indoors and away from mosquitos. Any water storage containers need to be sealed or emptied to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing. The last preventative measure is another very important one. Make sure to keep EPA registered insect repellents applied. It is best to set an alarm or med reminder for the next application so that you don’t increase your risk.