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Zika virus: symptoms, contagion and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The infected bite of the Aedes Aegyti mosquito causes the spread of diseases such as dengue or chikungunya. More recently, its involvement in the Zika virus transmission has also been discoveredThis disease belongs to the group of flaviviruses; it is a condition with mostly mild symptoms that mean that most infected people cannot clearly distinguish its presence.

Only between 20 and 25% of those affected have apparent symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis and appropriate rest measures. However, there are indications that its infection in pregnant women could cause complications for the baby, such as microcephaly. In this FastlyHealarticle, we explain the symptoms, contagion, and treatment of the Zika virus, as well as the complications it can generate during pregnancy.

What is the zika virus?

The Zika virus is a condition that belongs to the group of flaviviruses, with symptoms very similar to diseases such as dengue or yellow fever. This disease has its origin in the African country of Uganda, specifically in the Zika forest, where it was first detected in 1947 in a group of macaques. However, in 1952 the first cases of infected humans appeared in Uganda and Tanzania.

Until 2007 it was a relatively unknown condition with a low global impact until the virus was detected on one of the Micronesian islands, with more than 8,000 affected. By 2013 a new outbreak in French Polynesia again left more than 8,000 cases. During 2014 and 2015, the cases reached the American continent, with the first outbreaks in Brazil.

Because the symptoms are mild and, in many cases, the patient is not aware that they have the virus, effectively counting the disease cases has not been viable until now, so those affected to date could be more than you think.

How is this disease spread?

The Zika virus is transmitted mainly by the infected bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same one implicated in the spread of other viral conditions present, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, such as dengue and chikungunya. Different types of Aedes mosquitoes and some arachnids could also be carriers and culprits for spreading this virus.

With a lower incidence, cases of sexual transmission have also been reported since the infection can remain in the man’s sperm for two weeks, as well as contagion from the mother to the fetus and through infected blood transfusions, something that occurs in countries with poor sanitary controls. It has been proven that breastfeeding is not a means of transmission of this disease.

Zika virus symptoms

Once we are infected, this virus can take between 3 and 12 days to incubate; however, between 75 and 80% of patients who contract the Zika virus will not present significant symptoms, so they will not be aware of its presence in the organism.

Those who show signs of this condition may mistake it for a common cold or dengue. The symptoms of the Zika virus usually last between 2 and 7 days, and its most common signs are:

  • Fever below 39ºC.
  • Fatigue and general malaise.
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Headache.
  • Conjunctivitis.
  • Swelling in the hands and feet.
  • The appearance of a skin rash that can start on the face and then appear on the rest of the body.
  • In some instances, diarrhea and vomiting also occur.

Zika virus in pregnancy

Previous outbreaks of the Zika virus had not been presented as a significant health complication in the countries where the cases have occurred. On the contrary, most patients did not show symptoms, and those who did had mild symptoms. Additionally, no deaths had been recorded due to this condition.

However, the outbreaks of this disease that occurred in certain states of Brazil during 2015 coincide with the increase in the birth of babies with microcephaly in this nation. Microcephaly is an abnormality that occurs during the development of the fetus or in the first years of life. The skull is smaller than usual, usually causing brain atrophy and various complications that, in some cases, can lead to the death of the child.

The cases of microcephaly in Brazil have multiplied by 30, coinciding with the outbreaks of the Zika virus in this nation; therefore, in November 2015, the Brazilian Ministry of Health confirmed the relationship between the presence of this virus in pregnancy and cases of microcephaly. This abnormality, which can also occur when contracting rubella in pregnancy and toxoplasmosis, is considered very serious.

It is unknown how the virus acts in the mother’s body, nor is it known whether the condition poses a risk during the entire pregnancy or only during the first trimester. However, pregnant women should maximize preventive measures to avoid the spread of this condition.

In our article microcephaly: what is it and its complications, you will find more information about this condition.

How to prevent the zika virus

Taking the necessary measures to prevent the Zika virus is essential, especially in the case of pregnant women, so it is recommended to follow these suggestions:

  • Use mosquito repellent during the day and at night, spraying it on the skin and clothing. If you live in an area with a high presence of mosquitoes or where outbreaks have occurred, it is important to also use repellants at home and metallic fabrics on windows and doors to prevent insects from entering your home. Mosquito nets on the bed can also be of great help.
  • Avoid flashy, brightly colored clothing, which attracts insects more. Instead, cover your skin well with darker clothing and avoid leaving areas unprotected.
  • Fill your house with aromatic plants that repel mosquitoes, such as citronella, lavender, or eucalyptus, highly effective. Citronella candles also work well.
  • Avoid promoting an environment that attracts mosquitoes, so we recommend that you do not leave accumulated garbage at home and avoid standing water in buckets, unused wells, old tires, etc. This is the perfect environment for mosquitoes to proliferate.

Zika virus treatment

As with dengue or chikungunya, there is no treatment or vaccine against the Zika virus, so prevention is essential. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, it is necessary to rest and take adequate rest to guarantee your recovery; in the same way, it is recommended to increase hydration to combat fever and eat healthy to improve your prognosis.

Symptoms usually disappear after a week.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to the Zika virus: symptoms, contagion, and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Immune system category .

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