Tuesday, 2 February 2016

As health officials try to confine recent health
disasters, Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa fever and
Bird flu to the past, a new virus is fast becoming a
major threat.
Although the virus, Zika, was discovered in the
Americas, there are concerns that the disease may
become a worldwide problem, especially as it is
transmitted by mosquitoes.
The World Health Organisation has said that though
the symptoms shown by people with Zika, which is
currently found in Brazil, are only mild fever, skin
rash and conjunctivitis for about two-seven days,
it is a different story for pregnant women.
Zika reduces the growth of the foetus, leading to
microcephaly or stunted brain growth, hence
pregnant women have been advised against
travelling to areas where the virus has been
spotted.
In the meantime though, here are facts you should
know about Zika virus, according to WHO:
1. Zika virus disease is caused by a virus
transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
2. People with Zika virus disease usually have a
mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and
conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last
for two-seven days.
3. There is no specific treatment or vaccine
currently available.
4. The best form of prevention is protection
against mosquito bites.
5. The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the
Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Transmission
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite
of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus,
mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is
the same mosquito that transmits dengue,
chikungunya and yellow fever.
Zika virus disease outbreaks were reported for the
first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013 (Yap
and French Polynesia, respectively), and in 2015
from the Americas (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa
(Cape Verde).
In addition, more than 13 countries in the Americas
have reported sporadic Zika virus infections
indicating rapid geographic expansion of Zika virus.
photo source: developmentdiaries.com
Prevention
Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a
significant risk factor for Zika virus infection.
Prevention and control relies on reducing
mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and
modification of breeding sites) and reducing
contact between mosquitoes and people.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing
clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as
much of the body as possible; using physical
barriers such as screens, closed doors and
windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets.
It is also important to empty, clean or cover
containers that can hold water such as buckets,
flower pots or tyres, so that places where
mosquitoes can breed are removed.
Special attention and help should be given to those
who may not be able to protect themselves
adequately, such as young children, the sick or
elderly.
During outbreaks, health authorities may advise
that spraying of insecticides be carried out.
Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide
Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides
to treat relatively large water containers.
Travellers should take the basic precautions
described above to protect themselves from
mosquito bites.
Treatment
Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and
requires no specific treatment. People sick with
Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough
fluids, and treat pain and fever with common
medicines.
If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical
care and advice. There is currently no vaccine
available.

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