What is the Zika virus and how is it spread? Symptoms, travel advice and treatment

THE spread of the Zika virus caused global medical emergencies in 2015 and 2016.

An outbreak began in Brazil, although the first cases were observed in Africa in 1947.

Zika is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, but it can also be transmitted sexually


Zika is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, but it can also be transmitted sexuallyPhoto credit: Getty Images

Since then, the number of cases has fallen dramatically, but the virus still poses a “significant” long-term problem, according to the World Health Organization.

Recent warnings stem from fears that the virus could easily mutate and give birth to new variants.

Scientists in the US have warned the world to keep a close eye on this.

If variants emerged and spread, it could cause a problem even in countries with prior immunity to previous outbreaks, they warned.

What is Zika?

The virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda – the first place it was discovered.

The first human found to be infected with Zika was in 1952, but it wasn’t until over 60 years later, in early 2015, that the virus began to truly threaten public health in Brazil.

The virus usually only causes a very mild infection, and only a fifth of those infected actually become noticeably ill as a result of the disease.

But the real danger is for people with weakened immune systems and for pregnant women, as it can be passed from mother to baby.

Zika has been linked to neurological Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis.

It is also linked to the microcephaly birth defect in babies, which causes them to be born with abnormally small heads.

Microcephaly is also associated with incomplete brain development.

Doctors have started developing a vaccine to protect against the Zika virus.

How is Zika spread?

Zika is mainly spread through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day and night.

However, it can also be transmitted sexually, with the virus remaining in an infected man’s semen for months.

Most worryingly, it can be passed from mothers to babies in the womb – resulting in babies being born with serious birth defects.

One of the best ways to prevent contracting Zika is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito.

Wearing insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and avoiding standing water can help limit the risk of a bite.

People have also been warned against traveling to areas known to have high rates of Zika.

Although there is currently no vaccine, the best protection against it is to avoid bites.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

While Zika doesn’t necessarily affect all carriers of the virus, these are the types of symptoms that sufferers can experience:

  • rash
  • itching all over the body
  • Fever
  • headache
  • joint pain (with possible swelling)
  • Muscle aches
  • conjunctivitis
  • Lower back pain
  • pain behind the eyes

Babies can also be born with serious birth defects from the virus.

There is currently no specific treatment for Zika — although scientists are working on a vaccine.

NHS guidelines suggest drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol may help relieve symptoms in adults.

People have also been warned to seek urgent advice to rule out a malaria diagnosis if they feel unwell.

https://www.the-sun.com/health/5113666/zika-virus-symptoms-spread/ What is the Zika virus and how is it spread? Symptoms, travel advice and treatment

Tom Vazquez

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