Most believe it’s something new, where in fact the virus was first isolated in 1947. But for most people the virus became known when in 2015 reached pandemic levels.
Also known as Zika fever, it often causes no or only mild symptoms. The problem is that there is no specific treatment or some prevented medications such as vaccines.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), characterises the situation as an “extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world.”
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A baby in New Jersey, was born on the 31st of May 2016, with microcepahly (small head) after the mother had been infected with Zika. The child’s mother had previously lived in Brazil – a hot zone for the Zika Virus with up to 1.3 million cases of infection. People all around the world are worried, especially those visiting the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil.
So what should I know about Zika Virus?
Here are 8 important facts:
1. The Zika virus is spread by an infected Aedes mosquito and by sex.
A person bitten by a mosquito that has the virus then becomes viremic. The Zika virus is also sexually transmitted by men infected with Zika.
2. Symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually mild
Nearly 80% of the people who become infected never have symptoms. Those who do, most common Zika virus symptoms are:
- fever and skin rash
- muscle and joint pain
- pain behind the eyes
- itchy, red eyes
3. Unborn babies are most at risk from Zika virus
When pregnant women are infected with Zika, the unborn child is at risk of getting microcephaly which it may cause mental retardation, as well as delays in speech, movement, and growth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4. There’s no vaccine to protect against the Zika virus.
It appears that humanity was caught by surprise at the congenital infections. In December 2015, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) recommended Latin American countries start gearing up to screen for Zika and prepare for demands on the healthcare systems due to the severe health problems it’s causing in newborns.
5. On-set is only 2-7 days after the mosquito bite.
But the good thing is that only a small number of people can develop complications after being infected by Zika.
6. You can help prevent Zika infection by using insect repellents.
Especially if you are travelling in the region for the Olympic games and/or near the Zika outbreaks zone, you can take steps to avoid catching the virus. “The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to use a repellent containing picaridin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus, at least 20 percent DEET, or IR3535 when venturing outdoors, especially near dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active,” says Dr. Fredericks.
7. Travelers to the Olympic Games in Brazil probably won’t bring infected mosquitoes along with them.
It’s extremely unlikely that mosquitoes would be carried back to Cyprus by citizens traveling abroad. Especially since only a fraction of the total mosquito population in Zika outbreaks zone carries the virus, it’s even less likely for an infective mosquito to be brought back alive. The concern is that an infected person could pass it along by having sex or to local mosquito population through mosquito bites.
8. Where did Zika come from?
It was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947.
The first human case was detected in Nigeria in 1954 and there have been further outbreaks in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.
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