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What Is Zika Virus? Here's What You Should Know

Since there is no specific treatment or vaccine to prevent Zika virus, so prevention is key. One can prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during the day and night.

What Is Zika Virus? Heres What You Should Know

Amid reports of the Zika Virus spreading in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra, Delhi has reported its first case recently. A 60 plus old man from Northeast Delhi was admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital last week after suffering from fever and muscle pain, and was subsequently diagnosed with the disease, according to media reports. A random screening of the person's serum, urine and throat swab samples by RT-PCR at the hospital's virology lab detected the presence of Zika virus RNA in it. 

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus, first identified in Uganda in 1947, is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. A mosquito bites an infected person and then passes those viruses to other people it bites. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to fetes during pregnancy, through sexual contact and blood transfusion.

According to Dr Monica Mahajan, Director of Internal Medicine at Max Hospitals, "there is resurgence of cases of zika in India in the past few years with isolated cases reported in Kerala, UP, Rajasthan and now in Delhi. It is a mosquito borne viral infection resembling dengue with fever, rash, muscle and joint pains, conjunctivitis and vomitings. Unlike dengue, it does not cause profound drop in platelets . It is a concern in women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy since it causes fetal abnormalities including microcephaly ( small size head and brain development abnormalities). In adults, it can result in ascending paralysis ( GBS) in some cases of zika infection".

What are the symptoms? Are they different from symptoms of dengue?

Symptoms can appear anywhere from 3 to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. They are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include:

  • fever
  • skin rashes
  • conjunctivitis
  • muscle and joint pain
  • malaise
  • headache

These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days and most people won't know they have it. The difference is that Zika symptoms last for a few days or weeks and then they subside, but as for dengue the fever can last for weeks and can lead to bleeding and bruising. There are a few rare cases where in people infected with the Zika virus have been affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare but serious autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.

How is it treated?

Zika virus disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment just like dengue and chikungunya. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of bed rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with basic medicines. There are various diagnostic tests to confirm if the patient is suffering from the Zika virus or any other similar viruses. If symptoms worsen, then they must seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

How to protect yourself from the Zika virus?

Since there is no specific treatment or vaccine to prevent Zika virus, so prevention is key. One can prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during the day and night. The same mosquitoes also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. Here are some tips:

  • Apply insect repellents through the day and reapply if required
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors
  • Stay in places that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Get rid of stagnating water like that collected in flowerpots and other containers as this can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are more likely to bite during daytime hours
  • Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners hence condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex.

Yes, Zika can be passed through sex

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika can spread through sex, usually after a person traveled to an area where Zika has broken out, got the virus, and gave the virus to a sex partner who did not travel. Infected women and men can both pass the virus to sex partners - even if they haven't shown symptoms of infection, the CDC says. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass the virus on to their fetus.

What is the Connection between Zika and pregnancy?

Although Zika is not a fatal disease but the real reason behind the panic is for the women who are pregnant. Zika is found to be a major cause of microcephaly - a birth defect due to which children are born with visibly smaller heads, severely limiting their mental and physical abilities. Zika virus also may cause other neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

 Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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