Warning! 10 Things You Should Know about Zika Virus

The Zika virus is gradually spreading around different parts of the world. Therefore, taking precautions is essential, especially when pregnant.
Warning! 10 Things You Should Know about Zika Virus

Last update: 18 August, 2020

The Zika virus, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has reached at least 15 countries in the Americas according to the data verified so far. What’s most worrisome is that today, according to most national health institutions, there is no specific treatment developed to cure the effects of the virus. But through adequate prevention measures and having all the pertinent information available, more people can protect themselves.

According to the World Health Organizationthe Zika virus causes rash and fever. Theoretically, only people who have a weakened immune system are at risk of dying from this virus. However, the problem is much more troubling because it causes fetal malformations. In today’s article, we’ll give you all the information you need.

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus is very similar to dengue and yellow fever. It originated from a region of Uganda known as Zika. Hence, the previously unknown virus that affected monkeys was given its name. The discovery was made in 1947 but it wasn’t until 2007 when the virus “made the leap” to humans.

Up until a short time ago, symptomatology didn’t go beyond simple breakouts, joint pain, or fatigue. However, in 2007 the Zika virus spread from Africa to Micronesia. Then, in 2015, it arrived in America where it began to cause problems like microcephaly in newborns. In other words, a below-average inferior cranial proportion.

An aedes mosquito biting the skin.

Today’s Zika virus is different

  • The Pasteur Institute in Guyana is carrying out studies on the Zika virus, where they are analyzing this pathogen that has now spread through much of the Americas.
  • Although it may affect millions of people every year, the Zika virus only causes death in rare cases: when people have other respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, serious heart disease, or fatigue.
  • What is causing the current levels of alarm is what we mentioned at the start of this article – the current state of the Zika virus affects fetuses, causing microcephaly in fetuses.
  • According to the European Center for Disease Prevention, between 2010 and 2014 there were between 150 and 200 cases of microcephaly discovered in Brazil. That statistic becomes extremely alarming when you consider that in 2015 there were 3,893 cases.
  • The current strain of the Zika virus comes from an Asian genotype and is no longer related to the first known strain that emerged from Zika, Uganda.

This goes to show that, to date, the history of the virus that affects the Americas today has been clearly mapped by scientists. This leads to hope for a treatment and a vaccine soon.

How is the Zika virus transmitted?

You are most likely to contract the Zika virus if you are bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It’s not enough to simply apply repellent or avoid standing water around your house, however. Bear in mind that the current form of the virus can also be transmitted in the following ways:

  • Sexual transmission (the virus remains in the sperm for a long time)
  • Perinatal infection from mother to fetus through the bloodstream, although it should be mentioned that it cannot be transferred through breast milk

Symptoms of the Zika virus

After being bitten by an infected mosquito it can take between two and seven days to begin to experience the first symptoms. But remember that only one out of every four people will contract the disease.

The main symptoms include:

In order to distinguish the Zika virus from possible allergies, you should observe if you’ve experienced the overnight appearance of conjunctivitis, severe muscle pain, and fatigue.

Neurological or autoimmune complications are rare but have been recorded in recent months in Brazil. Therefore, it’s important to be on alert.

Zika virus and pregnant women

As you can probably see, the current alarm that the Zika virus is raising lies within the worrisome number of children who are being born with microcephaly.

This higher risk category for contracting the virus now includes women who are currently pregnant or who are trying to, and who reside in countries or regions with reported cases.

Today, those countries include the following:

  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Haiti
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin Island
  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Barbados
  • Panama
  • Ecuador
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Guyana
  • Suriname
  • French Guiana
  • Brazil
  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay

The epidemiological bulletin of Brazil has recorded the most cases to date. According to confirmations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on February 1st, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declare an international public health emergency given the likelihood of the mosquitos that carry the virus spreading to more countries.

I’m pregnant, what I can do?

The recommendations so far from outside the Americas have been clear and obvious: If you are pregnant, don’t travel to any of the countries mentioned above.

But…what about all the pregnant women who live in those countries?

Doctors have asked that these women take the following precautions:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito–preferably light-colored clothing.
  • Use insect repellent and install screens in your windows.
  • Avoid having areas around the home that collect stagnant water. This includes potted plants, and control any areas where moisture exists and insects can concentrate.

What’s more, all pregnant women or those who are trying to get pregnant see their doctors for regular checkups and stay informed at all times.

A pregnant woman surrounded by mosquitoes.

Reasons why the Zika virus causes birth defects

As we indicated above, Brazil has experienced the most incidences of the microcephaly outbreak. And this is also where numerous studies are taking place to determine the causes and possible treatments for the disease.

  • Experts have associated the risk of microcephaly and other birth defects with an infection caused by the Zika virus. This is during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Microcephaly is a very rare condition that’s either genetic or caused by exposure to environmental agents (either toxic or infectious).
  • Children born with this defect have a much smaller head circumference than normal, which hinders their development. They may suffer from seizures, difficulty with feeding, and even risk dying within their first few days of life.

I’m pregnant: how can I find out if my baby has microcephaly?

Doctors diagnose microcephaly in the womb through prenatal ultrasound. But to do this accurately, you must wait until the third trimester, and even these results are not always reliable. Therefore, the diagnosis comes after delivery.

It’s worth noting that there are different types of severity and, in some cases, microcephaly can be associated with a possible mental delay. However, there are children that, with the right tools and support, go on to live a relatively long life.

It’s important to see your doctor if you’re pregnant and don’t hesitate to follow his or her advice and recommendations.

Currently, scientists already have an understanding of what the Zika virus is, its mechanism, and how it acts. Therefore, they soon home to produce a vaccine. With information, caution, and the support of professionals, little by little, we’ll manage to overcome the Zika virus

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