The big question is what is Zika and why it can be dangerous.
Here are the things you need to know:
The virus is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
First identified in Uganda in 1947, this dengue-like infection was considered non-threatening for decades because it caused mild fever, skin rash, with or without muscle and joint pain in roughly one in five people affected.
The current outbreak in South America, from where the disease has spread to 23 countries within a year, changed that. The infection has caused panic because of its suspected link to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.
While it’s still not confirmed that Zika causes microcephaly, research in Brazil has shown that the virus can jump from the mother to the baby in the womb.
-> About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
-> The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for –> Zika virus disease is not known but is likely to be a few days to a week.
-> The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
-> Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
-> Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
-> Deaths are rare.
-> See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
-> If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.
-> Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
-> No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.
Treat the symptoms:
-> Get plenty of rest.
-> Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
-> Take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
-> Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
-> If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
-> During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
-> An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control rely on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres so that places, where mosquitoes can breed, are removed.
Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.
During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.
Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.