Because Zika is associated with neurological complications, including brain damage in infants, it’s important to understand Zika injection. It is still not clear if Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly—unusually small heads and damaged brains in newborns—but because of a surge of microcephaly in Brazil medical scientists are investigating a possible link to Zika.
Here are the top ten things you need to know about Zika, including prevention and treatment.
What Is Zika Virus? Zika is a tropical infection found in Africa and Asia. It was first discovered in the Western Hemisphere in May 2015 in Brazil. Because almost no one in the Western Hemisphere has been exposed to the virus that causes Zika, few people have immunity to Zika. Without immunity, the first infection may come on strong, and complications may be severe.
How Does It Spread?
Zika spreads by bites from Aedes species mosquitoes. These are the same type of mosquitoes that carry dengue, Chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses. Aedes aegypti is a very aggressive species that also spreads yellow fever and Zika. Zika can also be spread through blood transfusions, and may spread in semen during sex.
Where Is Zika Virus Found?
Zika virus has been studied in Africa since 1947 when it was first identified in Uganda. It spread from Africa to Asia about 50 years ago. In 2007, Zika jumped to the South Pacific islands. In 2013, a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia caused 42 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that can cause severe paralysis in victims. In May 2015, it was found in northeast Brazil. More than 20 countries have reported cases of Zika infection. The Pan-American Health Organization warns that Zika will soon spread to every country in North and South America, except Canada and Chile.
Will It Move To The United States?
Though it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer in the southern. While record snowfall blankets Washington, D.C., Zia virus is spreading explosively in Brazil, Venezuela, and is traveling northward into Mexico and the Caribbean. As the weather warms, mosquitos move north. In the United States, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found in Florida and other states along the Gulf of Mexico, and in Hawaii. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, can also spread Zika. This species is more cold tolerant and ranges as far north as New York and the Great Lakes. Already, about 30 cases of Zika infection have been reported in 11 states and Washington, D.C. However, all of these cases were infected while traveling outside the U.S.
What Are The Symptoms Of Zika Infection?
Medical researchers once believed that most of the time, Zika infection is mild and causes no lasting harm. Is the new version more dangerous? No one knows. That’s why it’s important to learn about Zika. Symptoms are similar to mild dengue fever including fever, joint and muscle pain, along with skin rash and red eyes, headache, and you feel weak and tired. Mild infection does not require hospitalization.
Is it Very Contagious? How Easy Can I Get Infected?
Zika does not spread from person to person like the flu, so it is not contagious. But, Aedes mosquitos are aggressive, and if you get bitten, you can become infected.
How Long Does It Stay In Your System?
Zika infection lasts about a week. Complications are rare, but there is growing concern about neurological and autoimmune reactions. Zika is thought only to remain in your blood for several days or up to a few weeks, but it has been found longer in some people. There is no known chronic form of Zika virus.
Should I Get Tested For Zika?
There is no rapid way to detect Zika virus. Because it is related to dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever it can cross-react causing positive results for tests for those viruses. Your doctor can order a PCR test, but it can only detect new infection. Researchers are working on a rapid test for Zika, and finger prick tests you can do at home are coming soon. Since pregnant women are the most vulnerable to Zika, the C.D.C. recommends that all pregnant women who have recently traveled to countries where Zika is present should get tested. These recommendations are controversial at the moment. Check the C.D.C. website for current guidelines.
Is There A Vaccine For Zika?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection.
What Is The Treatment For Zika?
There is no antiviral drug that cures Zika. For mild symptoms, treat it like a cold or flu with bed rest, plenty of fluids, and supportive care including acetaminophen for fever and joint pain.
How Can I Prevent Zika Infection?
Creating a barrier between mosquitoes is the best prevention. Avoid being outdoors during the peak mosquito feeding times or early morning and sundown. Wear protective clothing. Use rubber bands to close off openings at your wrists and ankles. Apply mosquito repellent. Keep screen doors closed. Sleep under a mosquito net. To prevent mosquitos breeding near your living space, empty objects that can contain standing water like flowerpots, fountains, and buckets.
Can Natural Medicines Help Treat Zika?
Natural medicines can be very effective for mild viral infections, including Zika. For home treatment of Zika infection follow the same rules for all viral illness. Manage fever and prevent dehydration by keeping up fluids and electrolytes. Take herbal anti-inflammatories like curcumin and cat’s claw. Use herbal antivirals like Echinacea tincture, or Isatis and Andrographis extracts. Try Chinese skullcap, Scutellaria. For the treatment of viruses, herbs are best taken in concentrated forms like tinctures or standardize extracts in capsules. Take vitamin C, zinc, and selenium to boost immunity.
Global health authorities aim to stay ahead of the curve of a Zika epidemic. Even though there is a lot of media coverage, health authorities are taking a proactive, not an alarmist approach. You should be concerned if you live in the Puerto Rico, Florida, and other Gulf Coast states, but not frightened.
If you travel to tropical regions of Mexico, Central American, the Caribbean, or South America take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For the near future, pregnant woman and woman attempting pregnancy would be wise to avoid travel to places where Zika is common.
Since Zika is not spread directly from human to human, if you don’t get a bite from an Aedes mosquito, you won’t get sick. For more information visit the CDC and WHO sites.