Zika Virus Infection

This is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes and is in the family of Viruses that include West Nile Virus that many American’s are familiar with.

It is generally a very mild infection characterized by fever, rash, joint pains and bloodshot or pink eye and resolves by itself in nearly all affected individuals

 

However its notoriety comes from the surge in births of newborns with small heads (microcephaly), brain damage and fetal loss in association with the outbreak of Zika virus infection in Brazil. Microcephaly rates are nearly 20 times what would be expected in areas of Brazil affected by Zika virus infection. In addition there have been reports of higher than expected cases of a neurologic condition called Guillan-Barre Syndrome that is characterized by muscle weakness progressing to paralysis.

Where does it occur?

The current outbreak started in Brazil in May of 2015 and now has spread to Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. In Central America cases have been reported from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama and now has spread to Mexico. In the Caribbean there have been infections in Barbados, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes belonging to the Aedes aegypti family. They tend to bite during the day and are most active in early morning and evening.

Is it contagious from person to person?

 

It is not typically contagious from person to person like the cold or flu viruses. However one can rarely get it from blood transfusions or sexual intercourse with infected individuals.

What is the risk for travelers?

Travelers to countries with ongoing outbreaks are at risk for contracting the infection. Pregnant individuals or those potentially contemplating pregnancy in the near future are advised to avoid travel to countries with ongoing outbreaks. Since half of pregnancies are unplanned, women of child bearing age should follow strict and effective birth control methods while in countries at risk for Zika virus infection.

What are the signs and symptoms?

One develops sudden onset of low grade fever ( upto 38.5 C or 101 F) , joint pains – especially of hands and feet, reddish sandpaper like rash and bloodshot or pink eyes. Some may have other symptoms of body and muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

 

Nearly all get better after a week of illness.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

In the first 2-4 days of the illness blood tests called Zika virus RT-PCR can detect the virus. After 4-5 days of the illness blood test called Zika virus IgM antibody are available.

Is there any treatment?

There is no specific antiviral medication at this time. Treatment is supportive with oral and intravenous fluids, Tylenol for pains and rest. One should avoid aspirin or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

What preventive measures can be taken?

If you are pregnant avoid travel to countries or regions with Zika virus infections. If you are of child bearing age practice effective birth control methods during and for up to 4 weeks after returning from high risk countries

 

In countries with ongoing infections practice personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve shirts & pants, applying mosquito repellant, staying in accommodations with effective screens, secure doors & windows with air conditioning and sleep with mosquito nets. Avoid outdoor activities early in the morning or evening when Aedes aegypti mosquitoes tend to be the most active. 

How soon will one experience symptoms?

Symptoms typically start 2-12 days after mosquito bites.

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