Keeping safe from Zika virus
Feb 8, Kathmandu: The rapidly spreading Zika virus has been occupying the global media for weeks now. The World Health Organization (WHO) took the unusual step of declaring an international public health emergency on February 1, regarding the mosquito-borne Zika virus and its suspected link to the birth defect microcephaly.
The move by WHO highlights the seriousness of the outbreak, coordinates the global effort against the virus and helps countries where it has shown up – now more than 20 in the Caribbean and Latin America, with Costa Rica and Jamaica just added to the group – to get access to the funding they need to fight Zika.
More people have been affecting in Brazil. The virus affected more than one million people in Brazil alone. Zika may be a lot more dangerous than anyone thought, which damage the brains of fetuses and cause incurable and lifelong health and cognitive problems, media reports said.
Zika is one of the so-called flaviviruses (dengue, West Nile and yellow fever are others) that are primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two types of these mosquitos, are common in the Americas, including in the southeastern and south-central states and in Hawaii, according to the reports.
The virus gets its name from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where it was first isolated in a febrile rhesus money in 1947. There were few cases of Zika in humans until 2007, when an outbreak occurred in Micronesia. Since then, there have been outbreaks in 2013 (French Polynesia) and 2014 (New Caledonia, Cook Islands, Easter Island). The current one in Brazil represents the first widespread event in the Western Hemisphere.
Symptoms of Zika virus
Signs of Zika include fever, aching joints, a rash, conjunctivitis and sometimes overall-body aches, headache and vomiting. These symptoms usually last a week. “But only 20 percent of those infected with the virus exhibit these signs,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Danger to the Unborn
Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant are at the greatest risk from Zika because of its link to microcephaly. Although it hasn’t been proved, some experts think it’s just a matter of time before so-called placental transmission has been confirmed. “The reason I think the link is real: They’ve taken samples from newborns that died in Brazil and they’ve found the viral genome of Zika in them,” says Ashley Thomas Martino, Ph.D., assistant professor in pharmaceutical sciences at St. John’s University. “If further research backs this up, this will establish a new concern that mosquito-borne viruses have the potential to cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus,” he adds.
It is possible to test the fetus for Zika in utero, but it's not an easy procedure, and few labs are equipped to do it. It’s best for pregnant women to talk to their doctors about how to proceed.
Even more worryingly, there is evidence that Zika is linked to a terrible birth defect called microcephaly, which is characterized by a shrunken head and incomplete brain development.
Keeping safe from Zika virus
- Avoid traveling to any of the areas where Zika is circulating; visit the CDC website for the latest list (and prevention advice). If you have visited one of them, don’t donate blood for a month after your return.
- If you can’t avoid going to one of these regions, avoid mosquitoes and their bites: Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 (these are safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women to use, but not for babies under two months old); wear clothing with long pants and long sleeves; sleep in a room with air conditioning (or under a mosquito net if you’re outdoors).
- If your partner/spouse has been to an area with Zika, the CDC recommends using condoms (but doesn’t specify for how long; it’s not known how long the virus might survive in semen). Public Health England recommends that men who’ve traveled to Zika hotspots use condoms for a full month upon their return.
- If you do come down with Zika, try to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes to protect others from getting your illness (mosquitoes can pick up the infection from your blood and pass it on).
- If your home is in an area where the Aedes mosquito thrives, discourage their breeding by eliminating any standing water – in watering cans, old tires, empty flower pots, etc.
There is no vaccine to prevent or specific medicine to treat Zika infections.
- Treat the symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to relieve fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Since Zika arrived in Brazil in 2015, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported — a twentyfold increase from previous years.
The Oslo Times