Hard Questions You Should be Asking About the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1941 in Zika Forest, Uganda. Since then, there have been reported outbreaks of Zika virus in various parts of tropical Africa, Pacific Islands, and South East Asia.
The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of other diseases, and there could be many cases of the virus that have not been recognized. Zika infection was confirmed in Brazil in May 2015 and 2016, the WHO declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Zika virus is likely to spread to new areas.
The virus is spread through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected man or from pregnant women to fetus. Zika virus often results in fever, conjunctivitis, joint pain, and rashes. The illness is mild, and the symptoms may last for several days.
What is Microcephaly?
The Zika virus has been linked to a serious birth defect known as congenital microcephaly when it infects pregnant women. Microcephaly is a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Zika virus causes a severe form of microcephaly in which the brain may stop growing and lacks the normal indentations. The nerves connecting the eyes and ears to the brain are often damaged, and these children may be born with permanently rigid limbs or suffer seizures constantly. There is no treatment for this kind of brain damage. Therefore prevention of infections known to cause microcephaly is the only way to control this problem.
How do you know if you have been infected by the virus?
Very few infected people develop symptoms of Zika virus infection. There are no rapid tests for Zika virus infection. The blood or urine samples collected need to go through tests in sophisticated laboratories and diagnosis is often delayed. For a more accurate diagnosis, these samples should be collected at least two weeks of less after the appearance of the symptoms. The disease is often closely related to yellow fever and dengue. Therefore false positives and false negatives may occur during testing.
Can the Zika virus kill?
With the latest news in the media about the Zika virus and the PHEIC declaration from the WHO, there has been a lot of concern over the extent of health problems that can be caused by the Zika virus. Besides the microcephaly in newborns from infection of pregnant women, there are rare cases of death resulting from Zika virus infection.