The Zika Virus has broken out in the United States and the number of cases for this mosquito-bite virus is increasing.
Named after the Zika forests of Uganda where its first case surfaced in the middle of the twentieth century.
Source of Zika Virus
This virus is primarily spread by mosquito bites. As of October 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed an approximate total of Zika infection disease cases with the first being reported from Miami, Florida in last July.
Where Zika Virus Spread From?
Zika virus was concentrated in a restricted area from Asia to Africa for a greater part of the twentieth century and started spreading across the Pacific after 2007. A vaccine against the Zika Virus is yet to be formulated despite the isolation of its first case in 1947. Here is all that you need to know and all you need to do about the Zika Virus.
Origin of Zika Virus
The origin of the Zika Virus is Aedes mosquito species. It is classified under the Flaviviridae family of viral infections which are transmitted through arthropod vectors, namely the Aedes mosquitoes which are day-time active.
This infection is transmitted by the same species as yellow fever, chikungunya virus and dengue fever. The Zika infection I most commonly transmitted by an infected mosquito’s bite.
Characteristics of Zika Virus Spreading Across the US
Phylogenetic researchers have found two types of Zika lineages, namely:
- Asian Lineage
- African Lineage
The lineage spreading across the United States is believed to have travelled from Africa, via the South Pacific. It is found to have 89% similarity with the African lineage but categorized as more closely related to the Asian lineage which was identified in the 2013-14 French Polynesia outbreak.
Research on Zika Virus
According to the CDC reports, the Zika Virus had not been given significant consideration as a human disease until 2007, before which it primarily followed a mosquito-monkey-mosquito transmission with very rare human infection cases reported. Towards the end of the first decade of the present century, human cases of Zika infection have been identified which have highlighted a transmission pattern similar to dengue fever and chikungunya virus.
Mosquito-Human-Mosquito Transmission Cycle
The Zika infection disease follows a mosquito-human-mosquito cycle of transmission. There are following stages of the cycle:
During the first week of a mosquito bite, blood becomes a virus carrier and transmits the germ to another mosquito upon biting which makes humans as chief transmitters of this disease.
The human blood remains an active carrier of the Zika virus for a maximum of ten days, per the research; however, the infected mosquito can transmit the virus to the rest of its life.
How Zika Virus Spreads in Mosquitos?
The medical scientists are yet to devise an examination to identify if a mosquito is a Zika carrier or not. It is believed that the Zika Virus spread has been triggered by the increased urbanization process as is the case with dengue fever. A large number of Aedes mosquito species have been identified as the source of the Zika virus, the female of Aedes Aegypt mosquito is identified to be the strongest carrier. It requires a supply of blood for its reproductive process and can pass on the infection to its offspring through the transovarial transmission.
Other Sources of Zika Virus Transmission
Female Aedes mosquito is the major but not the only source of Zika Virus transmission in humans. Confirmed cases of this disease show that a patient can be infected without even being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Zika Virus Transmission Among Humans
Blood Donation and Physical Contact
Cases of sexual transmission, pregnancy, blood donation and even fluid contact such as tears and sweat have been identified. Since this infection contaminates the blood of the patient and renders his blood as a strong carrier during the first seven days of infection, it can be sexually transmitted through one infected individual to a person who never visited an area under Zika Virus outbreak, for the same reason it spread through blood donation and during pregnancy.
It is found that the Zika infection can be transmitted from an infected mother to her fetus at any stage of pregnancy, no cases of spread via breastfeeding have been identified but the possibility cannot certainly be ruled out. Cases of abnormalities upon childbirth after Zika virus infection have been reported, including underdevelopment of the body feature of the child and more.
The Diagnosis of Zika Infection Disease Symptoms and Signs
The Zika Virus has a few symptoms which develop between three to twelve days of transmission of administration of the virus into the human body; however, the percentage of Zika patients showing signs of infection is very low. According to records, approximately one out of every five Zika patients develops symptoms of the infections while others don’t. The most common signs of Zika infection include:
- Illness, similar to dengue fever
- Body rashes
- Mild fever
- Reddening of eyes
- Joint pain
Mild fever and rashes are the earliest Zika symptoms identified by medical scientists, these were recorded in the first documented case of Zika virus in 1964.
A few other signs of this disease have been identified as well. These include vomiting, headaches, muscular pain, and pain behind the eyes.
Similarity With Other Viruses
Since the symptoms of the Zika infection are identical to other Aedes mosquito-bite viruses, it can be mistaken as one of those, most commonly dengue fever or chikungunya. The symptoms of this infection last for several days with fever usually disappearing before the rash. It is most advisable for pregnant women to have a medical examination of any of the symptoms of Zika infection develop, the CDC suggests for them to avoid travelling to areas where Zika virus is spreading given their increased vulnerability.
Diagnostic Tests for Zika Virus
For ill patients, the Zika infection can be traced by RT-PCR. Post-onset of the mild fever caused by the infection, identification of particular lgM antibodies via serology can also detect this disease.
According To research, the Zika antibodies do not cross-react with genetically related viruses; however, the tests can duly be affected if the patient has previously suffered from an Aedes mosquito-bite infection such as dengue or yellow fever. Neutralizing antibodies are advisable for the Zika virus diagnosis due to this reason.
Cure and Treatment
The medical scientists are yet to formulate a vaccine for the treatment of the Zika Virus. Several international organizations are working to develop a vaccine specific to this infection; however, it is not expected to be available for quite some time.
Fatalities Due To Zika Virus
There are no documented records of human fatalities caused by this disease. It is usually observed to complete its course within seven to ten days.
Prescriptive Medication For Treatment
Due to lack of specific medication, intermediate level treatment is provided for Zika virus patients with doses anti-fever and painkillers to alleviate fever and muscular or joint pains as reported.
The patients are advised to take complete rest and avoid any kind of unnecessary exertion. As it is a case of dengue fever, the Zika infection patients must remain hydrated to counter intensifying of the diseases. The fluids intake is increased.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-steroidal medicines, including aspirin, are to be avoided for the same reason as the dengue virus patients. These medicines can cause haemorrhage.
Cautions for Prevention
A vaccine for the prevention of the Zika Virus is yet to be developed, but the disease can be prevented. It is the most advisable to avoid travelling to the areas where Zika Virus is rampant, particularly for pregnant women. However, if travelling is mandatory then preventive cautions should be taken.
Protection Against Mosquito Bites
The female Aedes mosquitos, categorized as the major source of the Zika infection disease, are the most active during the daytime and can be found indoors as well, which is quite uncommon in the United States.
- Wearing body covering clothes, long sleeves and trousers, and use of strong mosquito replants throughout the day is much prudent when visiting the affected areas. EPA-registered insect repellents are found to be the most effective against these mosquitos.
- Stay indoors with proper air conditioning, temperature maintenance can reduce the activities of female Aedes mosquitoes responsible for spreading the Zika virus through mosquito bites.
- Stagnated water bodies can serve as breeding ponds for the Aedes mosquitos. Avoid standing water in your surroundings, in buckets, pots, planters etc. The female Aedes mosquitos lay eggs in stagnated waters.
- Using screens on windows and doors can prevent the mosquitos from flying indoors and reduce the risk of mosquito bites causing Zika infection.
- Although, the Aedes mosquitoes are proactive during the daytime but they can bite at night as well. It is, therefore, have all-night mosquito repellant devices to avoid mosquito bites.
Preventive checks against mosquito bites are the most important; however, due to its sexual transmissibility, it is also advised to avoid sex for eight weeks for women and twenty-four weeks for infected men. Blood donations should also be avoided.
A large number of the Zika virus cases have been reported in the continental the United States as well as the other states since the beginning of the second half of 2016. Several organizations are working to formulate an effective vaccine, particularly for this disease. It can be avoided by taking preventive checks and following the instructions of your medical consultants. Pregnant women should be the most cautious in this regard. Avoid travelling to the areas plagued with this virus, in Latin America, Africa and Asia and keep contact with those who have visited such areas to the minimal, to be safe.