Thursday, 28 January 2016


If you have planned to take a vacation or business
trip to Brazil or another country in South America,
you may need to reconsider it.
The simple reason is that the Zika virus, which has
led to over 500 babies being born with neurological
deformities, has spread to 25 countries on the
continent.
The virus is getting global attention at present
because of its alarming connection with
Microcephaly — a neurological disorder that results
in babies being born with abnormally small heads.
Since last November, Brazil has seen nearly 4,000
cases of microcephaly in babies born to women
who were infected with the virus during their
pregnancies.
To avert such disasters, the Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention in the US is warning
pregnant women against travelling to those areas.
Health officials in the affected countries have
warned their female citizens not to get pregnant for
up to two years.
This warning may seem extreme. But, believe it or
not, the virus is quite deadly.
For one, there is no vaccine or cure for those
infected with the virus. It is also spread by
mosquitoes, a common parasite in tropical regions
of the world, including West Africa.
History
Did you know that the Aedes aegypti mosquito that
transmits the virus was first discovered in Africa in
1940?
According to the World Health Organisation , Zika
virus occurs in tropical areas with large mosquito
populations and it is known to circulate in Africa,
the Americas, Southern Asia and Western Pacific.
The WHO states that the first documented outbreak
of the Zika virus disease occurred in the Pacific.
It adds that since 2013, cases and outbreaks of the
disease have been reported from the Western
Pacific, the Americas and Africa.
The global body warns that given the expansion of
environments where mosquitoes can live and
breed, facilitated by urbanisation and globalisation,
there is potential for major urban epidemics of Zika
virus disease to occur globally.
How it spreads
The parasite spreads when the Aedes mosquito
bites a person with an active infection and then
spreads the virus by biting others. Those people
then become carriers during the time they have
symptoms.
According to the Centre for Disease and Control,
these mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near
standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal
dishes, flower pots and vases.
The CDC says that these mosquitoes are
aggressive day-time biters as they prefer to bite
people and live indoors.
Symptoms
The good news is that most people who have the
Zika virus will not come down with fever. The WHO
estimates that only one out of five infected persons
will fall ill.
It states that the most common symptoms of the
virus are fever, rash, pain in the joints, 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 it is likely to last between a few days and a
week.
The virus, experts from the CDC note, usually
remains in the blood of an infected person for a
few days. But it can be found to last longer in
some people.
Treatment
There is currently no vaccine or medication to
prevent or treat Zika infections. Doctors
recommend that anyone with symptoms of fever
should take medicines, such as acetaminophen or
paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain and visit the
nearest hospital.
The best treatment for now is prevention.
Prevention
Although no case of Zika infection has been
recorded in Nigeria, experts say that one can take
certain precautions to reduce one’s vulnerability to
the disease.
A physician, Dr. Moruf Abdulsalam, says Nigerians
may be vulnerable to the disease because of our
dirty environment and poor waste disposal system,
which helps mosquitoes to thrive.
Abdulsalam notes that the unhygienic environment
and poor sanitary conditions in many homes in the
country pose great challenges to the eradication of
the disease.
“The species of mosquitos that carries the virus
thrives in water-logged areas or environments with
inadequate hygiene facilities. Also, the mosquitoes
live in dirty environments. Unfortunately, our waste
disposal system in Nigeria is very poor.
“People dump refuse in drainage channels and on
the streets, inviting mosquitoes to their homes and
surroundings. The solution is simple: keep
mosquitoes away from your home,” he counsels.
A pharmacist, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, notes that
insect control measures, such as spraying
insecticides indoors, are powerful ways to prevent
mosquitoes from turning our homes into breeding
grounds
Akintayo states, “Indoor spraying is effective for
three to six months, depending on the insecticide
used and the type of surface on which it is
sprayed. But, you can only get its full potential if 80
per cent of the houses in a neighborhood are doing
it.”
He also recommends that people living in
mosquito-prone areas, such as those living in
coastal areas, watersides and densely populated
areas should adopt the use of insecticide –treated
mosquito nets in their homes.
Finally, if you suspect that you or anyone else has
the symptoms of fever, do not treat yourself.
Please visit a doctor or hospital closest to you for
proper diagnosis and treatment.
Fever, according to doctors, is one of the
misdiagnosed disease conditions in the country
due to self-medication and treatment.
NB: If you do not sleep under insecticide-treated
mosquito nets, please get one today. Do all you
can to keep mosquitoes off your home .

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