Zika virus, more commonly known as ZIKV dates back to April 1947, when it was first identified. It is called Zika as the virus was identified when a rhesus monkey in the forests of Zika of Uganda broke down with fever. This monkey was used as a sentinel animal in a jungle yellow fever research program.
It is said that the very first report of a human ZIKV infection was reported in 1964 when a scientist acquired the infection. Since then, this virus has been identified among men in other African countries such as Egypt, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gabon, and Uganda. The virus is also reported to have infected the human population in many parts of Asia such as India, Malaysia, Thailand and even the Philippines.
In 2007 there was hue and cry over an outbreak of this virus on the Yap Islands. This was the very first time the virus was reported out of Asia and Africa.
The last year 2015, reported several cases of the ZIKV version in the Caribbean islands that went on to spread to US too. This outbreak has continued in 2016 with ZIKV infections in a number of countries across the globe.
The ZIKA infection is a lot like dengue and yellow fever. The virus is spread through mosquitoes. The Aedes species of mosquito, including the Aedes aegypti are carriers of this virus. The illness too is very similar to dengue in many ways. However, the fever is rather mild and self-limiting, lasting between 4 to 7 days.
Symptoms of ZIKA infection include:
Some less common symptoms that are reported:
There is no specific anti-viral treatment for ZIKA at the moment, however the symptoms can be treated with medication. Severe cases may call for hospital care.
Though a concrete link has not been established, several birth defects are surfacing in Brazil and are attributed to have been caused by the ZIKA virus. There is also some evidence that states that the Asian tiger mosquito also may be spreading the ailment.
The Aedes mosquito that was said to be predominant in Asia and Africa are now found in the Americas too. And their range seems to be expanding in the recent years, thus increasing the number of ZIKA cases each year.
Studies indicate that this species of mosquitoes have adapted to breed even in the smallest pool of water and moist environs around homes. You will be surprised to know that even a wet Styrofoam cup in your backyard can be the breeding ground for these mosquitoes.
Precautions to keep the mosquitoes at bay
Just keeping your yard or garden clean, getting rid of waste and debris and making sure there are no bodies holding water outdoors will help keep these mosquitoes away.
It is also important to mow and clean the yard regularly and bushes trimmed so as to improve the air flow around your home and make the space in and around your home less conducive for these mosquitoes.
Prevention is better than cure: Tips to follow if you live in a region where ZIKA virus is active
- Stay in air conditioned environs or a place that has windows and screens to keep the mosquitoes outside.
- Remove and drain all sources of standing water in and around the house that can pose as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during daytime hours, so protect yourself during the day too.
- Wear light-colored clothing, as mosquitoes are said to be more attracted to dark shades and colors.
- Avoid the using scented skin care products that attract the mosquitoes
- Invest on a mosquito net and sleep under it.
Ways to prevent getting infected
1. Wear long sleeves and pants
If you did not already know there is no vaccine to prevent ZIKA. And, it is needless to say that the best way to prevent contracting diseases that are spread by mosquitoes is to avoid getting bitten by them. If you live in an area that has active Zika cases, you can lower your risk by layering up. This will help you keep the mosquitoes from coming in contact with your skin. Tuck your pants into your socks every time you step outdoors.
Simply wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and layer up if need be. If you have a baby at home, make sure you cover up her crib, carrier and even stroller with mosquito netting.
2. Use insect repellent
You can use skin friendly insect repellent to protect yourself from getting bitten. Remember to always follow the instructions on the label and reapply the repellent every few hours. If you intend to use sunscreen, first apply it before spraying the repellent. Do not spray the repellent into your eyes or cuts and wounds.
3. Treat your clothing with Permethrin
Do not apply permethrin to your skin. This is meant for your clothing. This is widely used insect repellent that also features on the WHO’s list of must have medicines. Treat your clothing with this chemical to ward off the mosquitoes. Permethrin products are easily available on many online portals and aren’t very expensive.
4. Keep away from regions struck with ZIKA
CDC has warned pregnant women from travelling to any of the 22 countries that is stricken with the virus. The Zika virus can cause developmental delay and birth defects in the growing child. Zika virus can cause microcephaly, a very rare medical condition where the child is born with an abnormally small head.