The Zika virus, first identified in Uganda in 1947, is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. A mosquito bites an infected person and then passes those viruses to other people it bites. Outbreaks did not occur outside of Africa until 2007, when it spread to the South Pacific.
The doctors have confirmed Zika can spread through sex, usually after a person traveled to an area where Zika has broken out, got the virus, and gave the virus to a sex partner who did not travel. Infected women and men can both pass the virus to sex partners -- even if they haven’t shown symptoms of infection, In addition, infected pregnant women can pass the virus on to their fetus.
Some studies have also shown the virus can be found in blood, semen, urine, and saliva of infected people, as well as in fluids in the eye.
What Are the Symptoms of Zika?
The disease can cause fever, rash and joint pains, and redness in the whites of the eye. But most people won’t know they have it.
Symptoms can appear anywhere from 3 to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito according to the CDC. They can last from several days to about a week.
Once a person has been infected, scientists believe they are probably protected from future infections.
Is Zika Similar to Other Mosquito-Borne Illnesses, Such as Dengue Fever, Chikungunya ?
All can cause a variety of flu symptoms that range in severity and can last from a few days to more than a week. As with Zika, people will show any symptoms. While the same type of mosquitoes that spread Zika also spread dengue and chikungunya, many different types of mosquitoes spread the West Nile virus.
Zika is also the only one of those viruses known to be spread through sexual contact.
How Is Zika Treated?
There’s no treatment. The disease usually runs its course within a week or so.
The doctor recommends infected people get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration and take paracetamol for fever and pain.
There is no vaccination against Zika, but the National Institutes of Health is testing one in humans.
In India, the Zika virus–which has no cure or vaccine–was first found in Pune 64 years ago, as part of a survey that was testing immunity to Japanese and Russian varieties of a virus-borne brain infection called encephalitis.
How can one avoid the virus?
Check mosquito breeding in and around house. The mosquito that carries Zika virus - Aedes aegypti - breeds in fresh water so don’t let water collect in birdbaths, planters, non-used bottles, containers, discarded waste, tyres etc.
Use mosquito repellants such as creams, gels, electronic mosquito repellents, patches, incense sticks and bed nets. Grow plants that are known to repel mosquitoes such as citronella, basil, lemon grass, lavender, mint, rosemary etc.
Take special precautions during the day as Aedes aegypti is a day-biting mosquito and dress appropriately that covers most of the body parts.
Why India should fear Zika?
It is strongly suspected to cause birth defects and neurological problems in newborns and as birth rate is high in the country special care needs to be taken. Since India provides fertile climate for the aedes egypti mosquito to grow and multiply, there is the potential of an outbreak situation in the country.
The mosquito also carries dengue and chikungunya viruses that claim 100s of lives and infect 1000s every year. There could be a lack of population immunity against the virus in newly affected areas.