New Delhi, January 31, 2016
Zika virus disease is spreading in several countries. Caused by coronavirus, it is
transmitted by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. The infection causes mild fever, skin
rash (exanthema), joint pain and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for
2 to 7 days. Microcephaly, or babies being born with small heads, is also reported
to be a consequence of the infection, apart from neurological disorders. There is
no specific treatment or vaccine.
(ALSO SEE: WHO
on Monday declared the Zika viral epidemic and its associated birth defects a
global public health emergency.)
The disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment. Patients should be
given plenty of rest, enough fluids and treatment for pain and fever with common
medicines. If symptoms worsen, one must take medical advice. Zika virus is diagnosed
through PCR (polymerase chain reaction).
The only prevention is protection against mosquito bites. Use insect repellents,
wear clothes covering as much of the body as possible, use screens etc, close
doors and windows, use mosquito nets. Clean or cover containers that can hold
water such as buckets, flower pots or old tyres lest the mosquitoes get a chance
The only way to fight Zika is to clear stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, and
to protect against mosquito bites. Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue
fever, chikungunya, yellow fever viruses and other diseases, spreads the Zika virus. It is identified by white markings on its legs. Originated in Africa, it is today found in most regions. Only the female bites as it needs blood to grow its eggs.
The US has issued travel advisories warning pregnant women against travelling to
several countries in the region as it is reported to cause deformities in newborns.
The infection may be a causative factor for microcephaly, or babies being born with
small heads, but not confirmed. There are also neurological and auto-immune
complications associated with the infection.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against travel to
Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras,
Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, US
Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint
Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa.
Recently, after a reported outbreak of the epidemic in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El
Salvador and Jamaica had advised its women citizens to avoid pregnancies in view
of the gravity of the uncertain situation created by the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Brazil reported the number of babies born with suspected microcephaly has
reached 4,000 since October. The Zika virus is said to cause microcephaly which
has the symptom of abnormally small heads in newborns. In Brazil 49 babies with
suspected microcephaly have died. Zika virus was confirmed in some of these.
The virus was first discovered in Africa in the 1940s. It is currently spreading in
Latin America. Mocrobiologist Dr Ali Mohamed Zaki, an Egyptian, first isolated the
virus while working in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
- RM Nair