January 21, 2016 381
This morning when I was skimming through the news, one particular article caught my attention. It warned Malaysians travelling to countries like Brazil to beware of the Zika virus. Gosh, this made me curious to read about this new micro-organism.
What is Zika virus?
Zika Virus or referred to as ZIKV is a virus that is transmitted by the day-time –active Aedes mosquitoes (yes, the ones that carry dengue virus) and cause a mild illness much similar to Dengue called Zika Fever.
What is Zika Fever? What are its signs and symptoms?
The virus and thus the fever have been named after the Zika Forest in Uganda where the virus was first isolated. The main symptoms clinically found in patients include:
- Muscle, joint pain
- Rasheswhich start in the face and then spread to other parts of the body
These are similar to those seen during a dengue fever.
What is the travel advisory all about?
The Ministry of Health has issued an alert to Malaysians visiting countries where Zika fever is prevalent. He advised the public to follow the same preventive measures taken to avoid dengue if they are visiting any country infected by the Zika virus. This comes after Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah released a statement on the current status of Zika virus infection-related incidents reported by World Health Organisation (WHO) last year.
Why is this illness so much in the news?
Late last year, the Zika virus was isolated in a new-born from the state of Ceará, Brazil, this infant was found to have microcephaly along with other congenital issues. Microcephaly is a rare condition where the size of a new-born baby’s head is significantly smaller than normal babies’ head. This condition is associated with poor or incomplete brain development.
It is said that new mothers who had been infected by the Zika Virus when pregnant could have children who might be diagnosed with microcephaly. Thus, as a precautionary measure, pregnant women are advised to rethink on their travel to Brazil till the exact causative agent of microcephaly associated with Zika virus infection can be identified.
Although not proven, it is suspected that microcephaly could be caused by transplacental infection of the foetus. This could also lead to brain damage.
Are there any preventive measures to take note of?
As of now, there is no preventive vaccine available or any specific drug to treat the illness. Like dengue, medicines are given only to treat the fever and pain with analgesics and pain-killers.
Some of the preventive measures that could be taken are:
- Try to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes – wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts
- Use mosquito repellents
- Use mosquito net when going to bed
- Try to avoid outdoor activities especially during peak mosquito bite hours – just before dusk and just after dawn
- The Health Ministry requests public - If there are any individuals who seem to show symptoms of this disease while in the infected country or when returning to Malaysia, it is advised that they immediately seek treatment from the nearest clinic or hospital.
The Ministry of Health also emphasises on the fact that public should continue to work towards destroying Aedes mosquito breeding places at home and surrounding areas.
If at all, we are infected by this virus, what treatment should be given?
As mentioned above, the doctor prescribes medicines to treat the prevailing symptoms:
- Patients are advised to take rest
- Good to take in lots of fluids to avoid dehydration
- Consume medicines as prescribed by physician.
- During the first week of infection, the Zika virus is found in the blood and can be easily passed from an infected person to a healthy individual via a mosquito carrier through the mosquito bites.
Prevention is better than cure. Stay safe, travel safe! Do you have any tips to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in and around our homes and surroundings? Share them in the comment box below!
by Hridya Anand
A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.