The Zika virus is a mosquito born virus that is closely related to Dengue. It is found in animals in many parts of Asia and Africa without any outbreaks in humans. Between 2013/2015 there were large outbreaks of Zika in a number of Pacific countries and in 2015/2016 large outbreaks occurred and are ongoing in the Americas. Zika virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Only some mosquitos from a group called Aedes Aegypti and the Dengue mosquito can spread Zika. People who are living or have recently returned from countries which have active outbreaks of Zika virus may be at risk of infection.
Symptoms of infection
Symptoms typically occur 3 – 12 days after catching the virus. Only 20% of people feel sick. Symptoms may include fever, joint pain, muscle pain, headache, conjunctivitis, a flat looking skin rash, weakness and lack of energy.
Outbreaks in the Americas and the Pacific
Outbreaks are a cause for concern because of birth defects (microcephaly) in women who have caught Zika virus while pregnant. Further studies on this matter are being done. Zika virus may also cause a paralysis known as Guillain–Barré syndrome but it’s uncertain that Zika virus does this.
Zika is diagnosed with a blood sample. There is no vaccine against Zika virus. Prevention involves reducing the risk of mosquito bite. Women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy are advised to avoid travelling to areas where there is a current outbreak of Zika virus.
Other methods of prevention
These methods include wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, using insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin. DEET and Picaridin are safe for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children over two years. Put insect repellent on after sunscreen and not before. Use Permethrin on gear such as boots, pants, socks, use bed nets and tents. Sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
If you think you may have contacted Zika virus, please contact your doctor.