What is Zika virus: symptoms, cures and prevention

zika virus carrier
According to health experts, Zika virus is spread by black mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) - the same type responsible for other diseases like dengue and yellow fever. (image: CC0 Public Domain)

MANILA, Philippines – Recent reports from the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that a patient from Iloilo City is positive for the Zika virus. The incident was the first recorded local transmission in the country and the sixth (6th) laboratory-confirmed case of the disease since 2012.

The patient is a 45-year old woman, married but not pregnant – a relief since the Zika virus has been known to affect infants given birth by a mother who contracted the disease. Infection results to babies being born with microcephaly, an abnormal ‘smallness’ of the head.

This mosquito-borne virus was first spotted in Uganda and immediately led to a horrifying outbreak.

One of the ways to make sure that you and your family are protected is to be fully informed. We have provided you with a full set of information and helpful details about the Zika virus.

  1. Know the carrier of the disease

It is very important that you are aware of what you are trying to avoid. According to experts, Zika virus is spread by black mosquitoes (specifically, Aedes aegypti).

  • This particular type of mosquito has bands of white dots that resemble white stripes.
  • Their legs are also striped.
  • The same mosquitoes are also carriers of viruses responsible for chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever.
  • Zika-carrier mosquitoes bite during the day, particularly during early hours of the morning and late afternoon.
  • Zika virus can spread quickly.
  1. Be aware of the symptoms

If you notice the following signs and symptoms, it is possible that you might have contracted the virus. These last for only a few days and some people who get it do not even develop signs, making it difficult to identify if the person has Zika or other diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

  • mild fever
  • rash
  • body aches, joint pains
  • irritated or red eyes, pink eye
  • muscle pain and headaches
  1. Effects on pregnant women

Perhaps the worst effect of the Zika virus is on pregnant women and their babies.

  • There have been reports that some babies born to women who contacted the virus during pregnancy were not affected.
  • However, some babies, for instance in Brazil, were born with microcephaly.
  • Babies with abnormally small head might die at birth and even if they survive, they will have problems developing mentally and physically.
  • Women, especially pregnant mothers should cover up or use mosquito repellents.
  • It is also advised to use screens and bed nets for better prevention.
  • However, no baby ever got the virus from breast milk. In fact, breastfeeding is the surest way to protect your baby’s health from any disease.
  1. Are men also affected by the virus?

Everyone is at risk but the worst effects were seen on pregnant women.

  • Zika can be passed from a male host to a woman through sexual intercourse.
  • Men travelling often especially in places where Zika has been reported, should use condoms for at least 8 weeks afterwards.
  1. Medical treatment

Although the virus has already affected many people in other continents, there is still no medicine to treat Zika and no known vaccine to prevent it. However, we can do other things to relieve the symptoms.

  • bed rest
  • drinking plenty of water and other fluids
  • taking over-the-counter medicine like paracetamol for headaches and fever
  • however, taking aspirin or ibuprofen is HARMFUL to pregnant women
  1. When should you see a doctor?

The common symptoms of ZIka virus (and other mosquito-borne diseases) can be treated at home but this might not be enough. Getting tested and consulting a health professional should be the best option for you.

  • See the doctor if you have a very high fever (40°C/104°F)
  • If you experience bleeding from the skin or gums (it might be dengue), it’s very important that you immediately go to the hospital for help.
  • If you have sever aches that last longer than two weeks (possible chikungunya).
  • Tingling or unexplained weakness
  1. Fighting the virus as a community

The government has been conducting campaigns and clean out drives to help prevent and stop the spread of the disease. Prevention starts at home and in the community.

  • Clean water sources like rivers, wells or pumps in order to make should that they are not stagnant and won’t provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Stay away from these bodies and sources of water during peak hours, early morning and late afternoon, when carriers of the disease bite most.
  • Pay attention to roadways and other places where water easily collect. These are perfect grounds for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Making sure that natural waterways flow freely will prevent them from stagnation.
  • Lastly, encourage people in the community to learn more about common diseases and how to prevent them. 
  1. Zika cases in the past

The first well-documented Zika case was in 1964 and scientists have long studied and observe the virus.

  • The first case was observed in a patient with a Zika fever.
  • The symptoms, according to this case, began with a headache.
  • It continued with skin rashes that covered a massive portion of the patient’s body on the next day.
  • Back pain was also present.
  • Another patient in 1973 suffered from fever, joint pain and headache. However, no skin rash was observed.
  • Still, all the cases point out that these symptoms from a ZIka virus were mild and can usually be treated at home.
  • Patients did not need to seek hospitalization.

Most of the areas affected by the epidemic advised women to postpone getting pregnant. The list of the countries include Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Jamaica and other parts of Brazil.

The Philippines, having the same tropical region, is at a higher risk especially with dramatic rise of population and the number of childbirth every day. Although it is only the 6th case in the country in 4 years, experts warned that the virus easily spreads without a warning.

However, authorities guaranteed that they are doing what they can to prevent the virus from spreading and causing more harm.

Since the news of the first local transmission of the virus broke, the government deployed health experts to observe and study the disease.

More updates will be released soon and being informed is just one step to protect yourself from the Zika virus.

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