The Zika virus is one the closely monitored health threat at the present which is linked to thousands of cases of life-threatening birth defects. Thousands of pregnant women in South America, specifically in Brazil have given birth to infants with microcephaly. In the test performed, it revealed that these infants have Zika virus in the brain.
Close look on the Zika virus
The Zika virus is categorized as a Flavivirus or a RNA virus. The virus chiefly spreads via the Aedes aegypti which is the mosquito responsible for spreading chikungunya and dengue.
Some individuals who are infected by the Zika virus end up symptomatic. Excluding pregnant women and unborn babies, the signs and symptoms are usually limited to uncomfortable aches.
Signs and symptoms
Approximately 20% of individuals who are infected by the Zika virus develop the following symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis or pink eye
- Muscle pain
The symptoms usually last for several days up to several weeks and eventually subside on their own. Being admitted to the hospital for those who have these symptoms is rarely needed.
It is important to note that the indications of Zika virus are somewhat similar but milder than those who have dengue or chikungunya which are also spread by the Aedes aegypti.
A diagnosis of the disease is based on the clinical findings and symptoms and then established with diagnostic testing.
Link to microcephaly
Despite the mild clinical effects in most individuals, the Zika virus is bad news for mothers. Even though it is too early to prove a direct causative link between the Zika virus and birth defects, the circumstantial proof linking the virus and the cases of microcephaly in Brazil is disturbing. In some countries, they even recommend mothers to delay conception.
Remember that microcephaly is a life-threatening condition that affects newborns which the distinctive small head. The brain is small and does not properly develop thus resulting to various neurological issues such as the following:
- Intellectual disability
- Developmental delay
- Hearing loss
- Motor impairment
- Visual problems
Is there a cure?
Individuals who develop the symptoms of the disease is managed with rest, increased fluids and acetaminophen. Medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can increase the risk for bleeding and must be avoided.
Zika virus can be avoided by preventing exposure to the Aedes aegypti mosquito. As an aggressive day-biting mosquito, it is important to apply an insect repellant, wear long-sleeved clothing and pants as well as use mosquito nets while at bed. Any sources of stagnant or standing water should be emptied since these are used by the mosquitoes as breeding grounds.