Zika Virus – What you need to know
What is Zika?
Zika is a type of virus. Zika virus is closely related to the dengue virus. Like dengue Zika is also spread mainly through mosquito bites, Aedes mosquito.
Zika has occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since May of 2015, there has been an outbreak happening in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The virus has also been found in Thailand, Australia, the United States and China.
Most of the infection has happened to people who have travelled to countries where the virus is found.
What are the symptoms?
Many people infected with Zika have no symptoms, or only mild symptoms. If there are symptoms, they usually happen 3 to 12 days after being bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. Symptoms are similar to that for dengue fever, but in-fact milder.
Symptoms might include:
- Pain in the joints, especially in the hands and feet
- Red eyes
How is Zika treated?
There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection. If your symptoms bother you, you should rest and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take paracetamol (E.g. brand name: Panadol) to relieve fever and aches.
Do not take aspirin or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (E.g. brand names: Bifen or Neurofen) or naproxen (E.g. brand name: Aleve), unless your doctor say it’s okay. That’s because they can cause bleeding in people who have a disease that is similar to Zika, called dengue fever.
Never give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. In children, aspirin can cause a serious problem called Reye syndrome.
Unless you are very ill from Zika virus it can be pretty much managed outside the hospital with symptom treatment as mentioned above.
Why then worry about Zika?
- Pregnancy Complication
During the Zika outbreak in Brazil, there have been many reports of problems in PREGNANT women with the infection. These problems have included
- babies being born with a head that is smaller than normal(microcephaly) and
The unborn babies who are affected often have problems with their development. Experts are currently studying the effects of Zika on pregnant women and their babies.
If you are pregnant and recently travelled to one of the countries where there is Zika, tell your doctor. They might want to test you for the virus. They can do tests to see if your baby is likely to have it, too.
If you get infected with Zika while you are pregnant, you could pass the infection on to your baby.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, experts say you should avoid traveling to countries where there is Zika virus. If you do visit these countries, it’s especially important to try to avoid mosquito bites.
2. Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS)
GBS is a condition associated with increasing muscle weakness. This can involve the muscles of the face or the arms and legs causing problems with simple daily activities like chewing or walking. In some areas where there is Zika virus, there have also been more cases of this disease. Experts don’t yet know if it is related to Zika.
If you are a suspect case, what happens during your doctors visit with us?
During your consultation, our doctors will make a mandatory phone call to Ministry of Health Duty Officer in charge. Your situation will be discussed with them over the phone and upon clarification with a Consultant Doctor in charge, a decision will be made whether you definitely fit the profile of a Zika suspect case.
MOH definition of a SUSPECT Case
- Any individual with a recent travel history (within two weeks) to Zika-affected areas AND
- Presenting with fever and maculopapular rash AND
- Any of the following:
- Non-purulent conjunctivitis
If MOH also agrees that you are a Zika suspect case, our doctors will then draw 2mls of blood from a vein in your arm. This blood will then be collected by despatch officer from MOH and will be tested for Zika Virus.
If you are only mildly unwell, our doctors will prescribe appropriate medications to treat your symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and fevers. Our doctors will advise that you purchase mosquito patches/repellent. If you don’t already have them, you can purchase them from our clinic.
If you are severely unwell and this will be signified by symptoms and signs such as low blood pressure, bleeding, fluid in the lungs, our doctor will advised that you present to a Hospital A&E department.
Results from the blood test will take about 2 working days to return. This is the only way to confirm a Zika infection. You will be informed directly by MOH if your blood tests positive for Zika.
Is isolation or quarantine required for Zika?
No Isolation is required for Zika. This virus is NOT airborne.
How to prevent Zika?
The best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to avoid the mosquitoes that carry it. Not all countries where Zika is common control mosquitoes well. But you can lower your chances of getting the infection if you travel there. You can:
- Stay inside when the mosquitoes that carry Zika are most active. They bite during the daytime, in the very early morning, and in the few hours before sunset.
- Wear shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants when you go outside.
- Wear bug spray or cream that contains DEET or a chemical called picaridin. Check the label to make sure. Do not use DEET on babies younger than 2 months.
- On your clothes and gear, use bug repellants that have a chemical called permethrin.
- Drain any standing water if possible. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
It’s also important to try to avoid mosquito bites if you have already gotten Zika. That’s because during the first week of having it, the virus can be found in your blood. If a mosquito bites you, and then bites another person, that person could then get Zika too.
Although Zika is spread mainly through mosquito bites, there are other possible ways to get it:
- Sex – There have been a few reports of people getting Zika through sex. This is NOT a common way to get the infection. But if you have been to a country where there is Zika virus, we advise to use a condom for at least a few weeks afterwards. This is especially important for men whose sex partner is a woman who could get pregnant.
- Blood transfusion – If you have been to a country where there is Zika virus, you should not donate blood for at least 4 weeks afterwards. If you already gave blood after traveling to one of these countries, and you have symptoms of Zika or test positive for it, call the place where you donated. They will not give your blood to other people, in case it is infected.
Is there a vaccine for Zika?
There is no vaccine for Zika virus infection.
**For the most current information about the outbreak, see one of these websites:
- United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov
- World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int