How is Zika Virus spread?
Zika virus is spread by being bitten by an infected 'Aedes' mosquito. Whilst it was first identified as being in Uganda, and now mostly in South America, Zika cases are being found elsewhere in the world. People often think that mosquitos only come out at night, but the Aedes mosquito will bite during both day and night.
Zika virus can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her foetus, during sex, or possibly through a blood transfusion
What are the symptoms of Zika Virus?
Quite often people will have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms. These include fever, rash, joint pains, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and headaches. These symptoms of Zika usually only last a few days or a week.
There are also reports coming out that Zika virus could be linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is a nerve condition that can lead to muscle weakness, including the muscles used for breathing. Whilst most will eventually recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a few may unfortunately die from it.
Is Zika Virus dangerous in pregnancy?
There has been a lot in the news about the dangers of Zika virus in pregnancy, but at present little is known for sure. It does seem though that Zika virus during pregnancy may lead to microcephaly (small, underformed skull), and severe brain defects in the baby. There are also links being found to Zika virus and eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth in the baby.
How can I protect myself from Zika virus?
The best way to protect yourself from Zika virus is to avoid areas where it is known to be. Countries with Zika virus include South America (Brazil, Argentina, Peru etc), Mexico, Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa etc), and Cape Verde in Africa. Small numbers of Zika virus cases have also been found across the USA and UK.
Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is probably the most effective way to avoid catching Zika virus. This includes sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long sleeves, and avoiding areas where mosquitos may congregate such as still water.
Zika virus can be spread during sex, so if your partner has recently travelled to a known Zika virus area then condoms may reduce the risk of transmission.
What tests are there for Zika Virus?
If your doctor thinks you may have caught Zika virus, then blood and urine tests can be arranged.
What treatment is available for Zika Virus?
Currently, Zika virus has no specific treatment or vaccine. If you think you have Zika virus, you should let your doctor know immediately. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid to stay hydrated. Acetaminophen/Paracetamol can be used for headaches and pain, but avoid aspirin until Dengue fever has been ruled out (it has an increased risk of bleeding).
You should also try to reduce the risk of passing Zika virus on, by using condoms if you have sex
Other links to Zika Virus information:
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