As the Zika virus continues to spread throughout Asia at an alarming rate, it’s important to arm yourselves with sufficient knowledge because many people aren’t even aware of the disease.
The Zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes’ bites, the same infected mosquitoes that carry similar viruses like dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. While the infection is dangerous to foetuses and newborns, it is generally not life threatening to children or adults.
It is important to note that most people who have been infected won’t experience any symptoms or will only have mild symptoms during the early stages.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain
These symptoms will typically last between 2 days to a week. Those infected by the virus usually aren’t sick enough to be admitted to hospital, which explains why people remain oblivious that they have been infected.
As previously mentioned, pregnant women and newborns are especially vulnerable to the Zika virus, as the virus has been shown to pass through amniotic fluid and interfere with how the fetus’ brain is developing. Foetuses in the first trimester are prone to birth defects as the virus can cause severe brain damage in babies.
In this case, the Zika virus can result in babies suffering from microcephaly, a disorder in which the brain and skull don’t develop as well and are too small. On top of that, reports of Guillame-Barre Syndrome, a serious neurological condition that can lead to paralysis, have also risen in areas where the virus has been reported.
Another alarming risk that expecting mums may face is a miscarriage.
Besides that, Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sex, even though the person hasn’t shown any symptoms at the time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the virus “can be passed from a person with Zika before their symptoms start, while they have symptoms, and after their symptoms end”.
At this point, there are no vaccines or prescription medications available to combat the virus as Zika has not been widely studied, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) did previously declare the rise in birth defects linked to the Zika virus outbreak a “public health emergency”, underscoring the seriousness of the problem and paving the way for research and aid to be fast-tracked to tackle the infection.
If infected with Zika, your doctor or medical professional will likely prescribe these following treatments:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids (water, green tea, fruit juice, & vegetable soup) to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain.
- Food rich in antiviral properties (ginger, garlic, lemon balm, licorice root, & oregano) can help boost the body’s defense mechanism.
- Avoid taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which can potentially increase the risk of bleeding problems.
- If you’re on medication for another health condition, do consult your doctor before taking additional medicine.
Of course, it’s important to take measures to control the spread of Zika virus. Here are several basic measures to prevent Zika infection:
- Avoid traveling to countries that are currently experiencing an outbreak.
- If travel can’t be avoided or postponed, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
- Stay indoors or places with air conditioning, as mosquitos cannot survive in a cool atmosphere.
- If staying outdoors, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk (peak mosquito hours).
- Use natural mosquito repellents
- Wear clothes that thoroughly cover your body (e.g.: long-sleeved shirts, long pants).
- Wear light-coloured clothing, as dark colours attract mosquitoes.
- Empty or cover containers that can hold water. Discard unneeded items that collect rain or run-off water, like old tires.
- Use condoms during sex (as Zika is transmittable from sexual intercourse).
Want to read more about this deadly virus? You can check out our previous articles here.