Understanding of Zika is growing fast. Health bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are sources of regularly updated information on the latest research into the illness. To find out more visit:
This article is based on information provided by the CDC. It contains general advice only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Always seek a professional health care opinion.
What is Zika?
Zika is a viral disease primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. Although for most people Zika is a mild illness, infection during pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of microcephaly, a severe birth defect where babies are born with small heads.
Where does Zika occur?
The first registered infection case of the Zika virus was in the Zika forest, in monkeys, in Uganda in 1947, caused by the ZIKV virus. The first human case was in 1954 in Uganda, and from there it spread to other African countries, such as Tanzania, Egypt, Serra Leon and Gabon, where the first outbreak happened. Southeast Asia and Oceania have also been through Zika outbreaks, and nowadays, the virus is a problem in Latin America, especially in Brazil and Colombia.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, and for them the illness is usually mild with the most common symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
These symptoms usually last 2-7 days. Visit a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
What causes Zika?
Zika is primarily transmitted through Aedesaegypti mosquitoes, a type which bites during the day and also spreads dengue fever and chikungunya. There have been some reports of cases where Zika has been transmitted through other routes such as sexual contact and blood transfusions.
How do you treat Zika?
There is no vaccine or specific drug against this virus. The focus of the treatment is to alleviate any discomfort caused by the symptoms.
Patients with symptoms of Zika should:
- See a doctor immediately
- Get plenty of bed rest
- Take medicine to relieve fever and pain
- Drink plenty of liquids
Pregnant women who develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within 2 weeks of being in a place affected by Zika are advised to see a healthcare provider.
Can Zika cause Microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome?
There is now evidence that Zika infection can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare and serious condition of the nervous system). There is growing concern that infection during pregnancy may also be linked to an increased risk of microcephaly, a severe birth defect where babies are born with small heads. This is now being investigated by health experts.