Just like Ebola, Lassa and other recent diseases, the word Zika is becoming as dreaded as ever. The disease which exists mostly in the American axis is transmitted through mosquito. Several responses have followed its recent outbreak however; travelers are warned to beware of the disease which has no cure yet. Here are some useful information about Zika Virus and precautions for travellers.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare. However, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding.
Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have also been reported.
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill. 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.
No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.
Treat the symptoms with plenty of rest, fluids to prevent dehydration and 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.
Tips for travellers
The latest figures from Colombia, released over the weekend, shows 20,297 confirmed cases of the disease in the South American country, including 2,116 pregnant women, making it the second most affected country after Brazil. The South American countries are presently the worst hit of the virus.
When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:
– Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
– Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
– Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
– Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
If you have a baby or child:
– Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
– Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
– Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
– Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
– Do not use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Sick with Chikungunya, Dengue, or Zika? Protect yourself and others from mosquito bites during the first week of illness. It is when you get bitten by mosquito or have blood contact with others that it can be spread.
The last precaution you should take is to educate others about the virus just like we did.