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Zika Virus: Important Facts You Must Know

It has been declared a global public health emergency by WHO and left the whole world worried. Here is what you should know about Zika virus.

Until recently, very few people knew about Zika virus disease, an infection that is transmitted by the day-active Aedes mosquitoes and whose characteristics and symptoms resemble dengue, West Nile virus and yellow fever. Recent discoveries indicate that the virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse. This was discovered when an infected person returning from Venezuela sexually transmitted the virus to the partner. Active Zika virus has also been discovered in urine and saliva by medical researchers in Brazil but studies on transmissions are still underway.

Affected Territories

Despite having been discovered way back in Uganda in 1947 in Zika forest, it was until May 2015 that it was confirmed in Brazil, spreading rapidly to other Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico. The virus has already been confirmed in different states and territories in the United States such as Central Florida, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Virginia. Three deaths associated with Guillain-Barré, a syndrome related to Zika have so far been reported in Columbia.

Signs and Symptoms

According to information released by CDC and WHO, those infected with the virus exhibit a number of symptoms such as rashes, fever, conjunctivitis and pain on joints. Headaches, vomiting, muscle pain and pain behind the eyes are other common symptoms the public must watch out for. These signs are normally mild and can last a few days up to a week, but some infected people don’t experience any symptoms. Severe cases requiring hospitalization are rare. Researchers are trying to unfold the connection between Zika virus and microcephaly in babies. The Zika virus is primarily diagnosed through isolation of virus from blood samples and PCR (polymerase chain reaction).

Prevention & Treatment

The best way to prevent the spread of Zika virus is through reduction of mosquitoes’ breeding sites and minimizing their contact with people. Viable options recommended include use of insect repellants and sleeping under a treated mosquito net. Stagnant water near homes should be cleared to reduce breeding. Travelers to areas with reported cases are advised to take necessary precautions before and during their visit.

At the moment, there is no known vaccine or specific treatment for the virus. As earlier stated, Zika virus does not require any definite medication because the symptoms are mild but if they persist, please visit a doctor for treatment or advice. Other symptoms such as fever and pain should be treated with commonly known medicines. Men with any possible exposure to Zika are advised to use protection during or completely abstain from sex throughout the course of the pregnancy if there is any possible exposure.

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