Every year, we get to hear and experience the impact of new viruses habituating in our environment. Early and mid-2016 is hit with Zika virus that resulted to fetal, children and adult deaths in the Americas and the Pacific. This article gives you an insight on the origin of the Zika virus, its impact on children and adults, how you may protect yourself and the possible preventive measures one may take to safeguard yourself and your families.
Origin of Zika virus
As of mid-2016, a widespread epidemic of Zika fever, caused by the Zika virus, is ongoing in the Americas and the Pacific. The outbreak began in early 2015 in Brazil, and then spread to other parts of South and North America; it is also affecting several islands in the Pacific. In January 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the virus was likely to spread throughout most of the Americas by the end of the year.
The virus is spread mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is commonly found throughout the tropical and subtropical Americas. It can also be spread by the Aedes albopictus (“Asian tiger”) mosquito, which is distributed as far north as the Great Lakes region in North America. Men infected with Zika can transmit the virus to their sexual partners.
How Zika virus affects children and adults?
In February 2016, WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern as evidence grew that Zika can cause birth defects as well as neurological problems. The virus can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus, which can then cause microcephaly— an abnormally small head and brain size, and other severe brain anomalies in the infant. The CDC posted a travel alert advising pregnant women to delay travel to areas where Zika is active. The travel alert list continues to expand and includes Miami, as well as 50 countries or territories in the Americas, the Pacific Islands, and Africa.
Zika infections in adults can result in Guillain–Barré syndrome. Prior to this outbreak, Zika was considered a mild infection, as most Zika virus infections are asymptomatic, making it difficult to determine precise estimates of the number of cases. In approximately one in five cases, Zika virus infections result in Zika fever, a minor illness that causes symptoms such as fever and a rash.
The Mercury News reports in its article on Aug 5 that 134 people in California have contracted the Zika virus while traveling in an area where the disease is endemic. The press further states, “The California Department of Public Health reported last week that two infants with Zika-related microcephaly were born in California to mothers who contracted the virus while abroad. One of the babies was born in Alameda County.
Prevention of Zika infection
As of now, there seems to be no vaccination to protect from the Zika virus. However, you can help prevent Zika infection by using insect repellents and proper use of condoms. If you are in areas with a current Zika outbreak can take steps to avoid catching the virus. Dr. Fredericks says, “The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to use a repellent containing picaridin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus, at least 20 percent DEET, or IR3535 when venturing outdoors, especially near dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active” He also adds, “Whenever possible, it also makes sense to wear long sleeves and pants when outside during these times and check which products are most effective in the Consumer Reports’ newly updated insect repellent ratings.”
Here’s a picture for you that highlights on the symptoms. However, a blood test can only confirm on the results.
Stay aware, stay protected and safeguard your family.