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Zika Virus: How it spreads, health risks, treatment & other FAQs – All you need to know

Zika virus: A major number of cases in India were reported in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in 2016 and 2017.

July 09, 2021 / 03:10 PM IST
Zika can be transmitted through mosquito bite of the Aedes species of mosquitoes, through sex, and from a pregnant woman to her baby. It is also very likely to be transmittable through blood transfusion, but this is not confirme. (Image: Zika Foundation)

Zika can be transmitted through mosquito bite of the Aedes species of mosquitoes, through sex, and from a pregnant woman to her baby. It is also very likely to be transmittable through blood transfusion, but this is not confirme. (Image: Zika Foundation)

A 24-year-old pregnant woman has been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Kerala on July 8 along with 13 other suspected cases in Thiruvananthapuram area, according to the State Health Minister Veena George.

The woman belongs to Parassala and is undergoing treatment at a private hospital after delivering her baby on July 7. She was admitted to the hospital on June 28 after complaining of headache and red marks on her body. Her condition at present is not serious.

Meanwhile, the 13 suspected cases are health workers, including doctors.

So, here is all you need to know about the Zika virus:

How Zika is transmitted?

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Zika can be transmitted through mosquito bite of the Aedes species of mosquitoes. This species is also known to carry and spread dengue.

The infection can also be transmitted through sex, and from a pregnant woman to her baby, as per the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC). It is also very likely to be transmittable through blood transfusion, but this is not confirmed, it added.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

The most common symptoms of Zika virus observed in many people infected with the virus include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes and muscle pain. However, something to note is that most people won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The symptoms can last for several days to a week and people usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. Infected people also rarely die of Zika and once infected are likely to gain protection from future infections.

So what is the risk?

Zika is most likely to have adverse impact on fetus of pregnant women. During pregnancy, the infection can cause severe birth defects of the brain in the developing fetus. Most common among these defects is microcephaly. It is also linked to other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects.

Besides this, there have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.

How to prevent Zika?

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. This can be done by ensuring that you wear long sleeved clothes and long pants or treat your clothes with insect repellent. You can also use mosquito nets and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside the house.

Further, do not allow water to stagnate in and around your house and ensure there are no objects and materials near you home that can become breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes during the rainy season.

For sexually transmission, always use condoms and have protected sex, or do not have sex.

How is Zika diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Zika is based on a person’s recent travel history, symptoms, and test results. To confirm, a blood or urine test can be done.

As per the Ministry of Health and family Welfare factsheet on Zika virus, it is can be diagnosed through a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and through virus isolation from blood samples.

What should you do if you get Zika?

Since there is no specific treatment for the Zika virus itself, you have to treat the symptoms – this includes staying hydrated and resting properly. Medicines will include fever and pain reducers such as acetaminophen and paracetamol.

The CDC and Indian Heath Ministry however advise not to take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and to talk with your doctor to confirm that any exiting medication you are taking will not pose a problem.

Self-medication should be avoided and one should always consult a doctor.

Zika virus in India

The virus was first found in monkeys from the Zika jungle in Uganda in 1947 and was formally identified as a virus in 1952.

A paper published in 1953 concluded that "significant numbers" of Indians were exposed to the virus after finding that 33 of 196 samples tested for Zika virus had immunity, the BBC reported.

A major number of cases in India were reported in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in 2016 and 2017.
Jocelyn Fernandes
first published: Jul 9, 2021 03:06 pm

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