The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through bites from an infected Aedes mosquito, a rare type of mosquito that thrives in the tropical climates and urban regions, and the same mosquito that transmits dengue fever, yellow fever, and the chikungunya virus. The virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual intercourse, organ transplant, or from mother to infant during pregnancy,
The first cases of Zika virus were identified in 1947 in monkeys from the Zika forest of Uganda. The virus was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Sporadic human infections continued to be recorded in other African countries, including Nigeria between the 1960s and 1980s, but only as mild illnesses. Infections managed to remain within Africa until 2007 after which it spread to the Pacific with the first outbreak recorded in the Island of Yap. A second and even larger outbreak was reported in 2013 in French Polynesia and neighboring countries. More outbreaks have since been reported outside Africa like the one reported in Brazil in 2015. Zika virus finally arrived in the United States of America in the summer of 2016.
Signs and Symptoms of Zika Virus
The Zika virus causes Zika virus disease. In most people, the disease occurs as a mild illness characterized by mild symptoms, including fever, rash, headache, muscle and joint aches, conjunctivitis, and malaise. An infected person can take between 3 days to weeks to show symptoms. However, most people who get infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms and often never realize they have been infected.
But Zika can also cause several serious complications. In rare cases, Zika virus can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurologic condition in adults characterized by severe muscle weakness that can result in partial or total body paralysis. The virus is also associated with a severe congenital disability in children known as microcephaly, a condition in which pregnant women infected with the virus give birth to children with abnormally small heads, causing brain damage and other fatal developmental problems.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Zika virus disease is identified based on signs and symptoms. However, a diagnosis of infection is only confirmed through a laboratory test using blood and other bodily fluids like semen and urine. Unfortunately, there is still no cure or vaccines for Zika virus. All treatments plans integrate the use of over-the-counter medications used to treat flu, aches, and pains. Infected people are also advised to take plenty of fluids and rest. Fortunately, most people who get infected often recover in a week or two without any complication.
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