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What is Zika Virus?

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The Zika virus was discovered almost 70 years ago. It is named for the forest in Uganda, where Zika was discovered. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. For most people, Zika is little more than an annoyance as it includes symptoms such as fever, achy joints, a rash and pink eye.

Symptoms

  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
  • Deaths are rare.

Diagnosis

  • The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
  • See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
  • If you have recently travelled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you travelled.
  • Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.

Treatment

  • No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.

Treat the symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
  • Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

If you have Zika, for the first week of your illness…

  • During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
  • An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

What are the dangers of Zika virus?

The possibility that the Zika virus causes microcephaly – unusually small heads and damaged brains – emerged only in October, when doctors in northern Brazil noticed a surge in babies with the condition.

It may be that other factors, such as simultaneous infection with other viruses, are contributing to the rise; investigators may even find that Zika virus is not the main cause, although right now circumstantial evidence suggests that it is.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged pregnant women against travel to about two dozen countries, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America, where the outbreak is growing.

 

Sources: www.cdc.gov & www.nytimes.com