What is Zika virus infection?
Zika virus infection is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, usually causing mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are mild fever and skin rash, usually accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, and general malaise that begins 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
One out of four infected people develops symptoms of the disease. Among those who do, the disease is usually mild and can last 2-7 days. Symptoms are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same type of mosquito. Neurological and autoimmune complications are possible in some cases.
Zika Virus Transmission:
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya.
In general, the Zika virus needs a means of transportation to infect people. That vector is the mosquito. Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent mechanism.
Chances of Transmission from mother to child:
There is some information on transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth. Perinatal transmission has been reported with other vector-borne viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya. Studies are now being conducted on possible mother-to-child transmission of the virus and its possible effects on the baby.
There is no vaccine or specific drug for this virus. Treatment consists of relieving pain, fever, and any other symptom that inconveniences the patient. To prevent dehydration, it is recommended to control the fever, rest, and drink plenty of water.
The possibility that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, unusually small heads and damaged brains.
Who is at risk of Zika infection?
Anyone not previously exposed to the virus and who lives in an area where the mosquito is present, and where imported or local cases have been reported, may be infected. Since the Aedes mosquito is found throughout the Region, it is likely that outbreaks will occur in other countries that have not yet reported any cases.
In most people, diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and epidemiological circumstances.
Blood tests can help to confirm the diagnosis. Some virological PCR tests are useful in the first 3-5 days after the onset of symptoms, while others detect the presence of antibodies but are useful only after five days.
Once it has been demonstrated that the virus is present in a given area or territory, confirmation of all cases is not necessary, and laboratory testing will be adjusted to routine virological surveillance of the disease.
What is the difference between Zika, dengue, and chikungunya?
All these diseases present similar symptoms, but certain symptoms suggest one disease or another:
Dengue usually presents with higher fever and more severe muscle pain. There can be complications when the fever breaks: attention should be paid to warning signs such as bleeding.
Chikungunya presents with higher fever and more intense joint pain, affecting the hands, feet, knees, and back. It can disable people, bending them over so that they cannot walk or perform simple actions such as opening a water bottle.
Zika does not have clearly characteristic features, but most patients have skin rashes and some have conjunctivitis.
Prevention involves reducing mosquito populations and avoiding bites, which occur mainly during the day. Eliminating and controlling mosquito breeding sites reduces the chances that Zika, chikungunya, and dengue will be transmitted. An integrated response is required, involving action in several areas, including health, education, and the environment.
To eliminate and control the mosquito, it is recommended to:
- Avoid allowing standing water in outdoor containers (flower pots, bottles, and containers that collect water) so that they do not become mosquito breeding sites.
- Cover domestic water tanks so that mosquitoes cannot get in.
- Avoid accumulating garbage: Put it in closed plastic bags and keep it in closed containers.
- Unblock drains that could accumulate standing water.
- Use screens and mosquito nets in windows and doors to reduce contact between mosquitoes and people.
To prevent mosquito bites, it is recommended that people who live in areas where there are cases of the disease, as well as travelers and, especially, pregnant women should:
- Cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and hats
- Use repellents recommended by the health authorities (and apply them as indicated on the label)
- Sleep under mosquito nets.
People with symptoms of Zika, dengue, or chikungunya should visit a health center.