May 19, 2010, 12:02 PM
It is said the disease, whose case occurred in May 2015 in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile.
Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands are said to be safe but it is very essential to be alert and to keep a close watch as the virus is transmitted by mosquito and is linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which babies are born with smaller than normal brains.
We therefore deemed it necessary to bring this information to the notice of our people in The Gambia for a better understanding of the highly infectious viral disease spread by mosquitos.
The following therefore are some aspects of the diseases as put out by the WHO and the Pan-American Health organization about the Zika virus.
What is Zika virus infection?
Zika virus infection is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, usually causing mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain.
The virus was isolated for the first time in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. Since then, it has remained mainly in Africa, with small and sporadic outbreaks in Asia. In 2007, a major epidemic was reported on the island of Yap (Micronesia), where nearly 75% of the population was infected.
On 3 March 2014, Chile notified PAHO/WHO that it had confirmed a case of indigenous transmission of Zika virus on Easter Island, where the virus continued to be detected until June 2014.
In May 2015, the public health authorities of Brazil confirmed the transmission of Zika virus in the northeast of the country. Since October 2015, other countries and territories of the Americas have reported the presence of the virus. See updated list at: www.paho.org/zikavirus.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are mild fever and exanthema (skin rash), usually accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, and general malaise that begins 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
One out of four infected people develops symptoms of the disease. Among those who do, the disease is usually mild and can last 2-7 days. Symptoms are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same type of mosquito. Neurological and autoimmune complications are infrequent, but have been described in the outbreaks in Polynesia and, more recently, in Brazil. As the virus spreads in the Americas, giving us more experience with its symptoms and complications, it will be possible to characterize the disease better.
How is Zika virus transmitted?
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya.
Can it be transmitted through blood or sexual contact?
In general, the Zika virus needs a vector (a means of transportation) to infect people. That vector is the mosquito. The virus has also been isolated in semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described, but not confirmed.
Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent mechanism. The usual recommendations for safe transfusions should be followed (e.g., healthy volunteer donors).
Can it be transmitted from mother to child?
There is little information on transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth. Perinatal transmission has been reported with other vector-borne viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya. Studies are now being conducted on possible mother-to-child transmission of the virus and its possible effects on the baby.
What treatment is there?
Treatment consists of relieving pain, fever, and any other symptom that inconveniences the patient. To prevent dehydration, it is recommended to control the fever, rest, and drink plenty of water. There is no vaccine or specific drug for this virus.
Can it cause death?
In this Region, it is a new virus that up until now has had a very limited geographical and demographic distribution, and there is no evidence that it can cause death. However, sporadic cases have been reported of more serious manifestations and complications in patients with preexisting diseases or conditions, causing death.
“Health is not valued till sickness comes.”