Zika fever is presently a major concern for heath authorities across the world. This is particularly in regard to pregnant women who the fever presents serious risks.
Zika fever is caused by Zika virus (ZIKV), a type of virus that is normally found in rhesus monkeys. The virus was first identified in Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947 and thus its name. It was “accidentally” identified by scientists who were researching about Yellow Fever.
The first documented case of a human being infected with Zika virus was in 1952. These were Ugandans who otherwise had developed immunity against the fever. It is from Uganda that the virus spread to Nigeria in West Africa and such other countries as Central African Republic, Gabon, Egypt and Sierra Leone among other countries.
The first occurrence of Zika virus outside Africa was in 2007 in some Asian countries. Other Zika fever outbreaks have been reported in such other countries as French Polynesia, Bangladesh and New Caledonia. The virus seems to be spreading very fast since it has also caused outbreaks in such other countries as Brazil, Mexico and Central American region. This was as recently as early this year (2016).
Rhesus monkeys happen to be host of the virus. It is from these monkeys that a specific type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito picks the virus only to transmit the virus to humans in case of a bite. This type of mosquito is mostly active at during day time. However, scientists have of late established that other types of mosquitoes can also transmit the virus.
Apart from mosquitoes, Zika virus can also be transmitted sexually. Having unprotected sex with an infected partner is one of the ways through which the virus spread very fast in 2015 especially in such countries as France, Chile, Italy and United States. The virus resides in body fluid and in particular semen.
The fact that it resides in body fluid also means that you can transmit the virus to your unborn baby in case you are infected. Your unborn baby is most likely to be infected through the placenta or at delivery.
Transmission through blood transfusion has also been recorded even though donors are always screened. This happens because an infected person normally does not present any symptoms until after several days.
Zika virus infection presents similar symptoms presented by such other viral infections as Yellow and dengue fever. The symptoms are generally mild and include joint pains, mild headache, fever and skin rashes among other symptoms. These symptoms do resolve on their own without any treatment with full recovery of an infected person.
Zika and Pregnancy
Although it presents mild symptoms that resolve on their own, Zika virus infection can be devastating in case you are pregnant. This is because of the risks your unborn baby remains susceptible to. It is indeed because of such risks that different countries issue travel advisories in case of outbreaks.
Zika virus infection is linked to occurrence of serious birth defects one of which is microephaly. This is a serious neurological condition associated with development of small heads and brain damage in unborn babies.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Zika virus. Infected persons are only advised to have a lot of rest until symptoms disappear and the person recovers.
However, a lot of research is underway to develop a vaccine similar to Yellow fever vaccine that protects against the virus. India’s Bharat Biotech International and US’s NIH Vaccine Research Center are currently involved in research work to find the most suitable vaccine.
In the meantime, prevention is the only measure you can take to protect yourself and your unborn baby in case you are pregnant from Zika virus infection. It pays to heed travel advisories whenever they are issued. It also pays to always engage in protected sex in case you are pregnant and unmarried.