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What Is the Zika Virus?

What is the Zika virus? How is it detected?
The Zika virus, first identified in Uganda in 1947, is transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that transmits dengue, yellow fever and the chikungunya virus. A mosquito bites an infected person and then transmits these viruses to others and bites them. The outbreaks did not occur outside Africa until 2007, when they spread to the southern Pacific.

Zika can be transmitted sexually, usually after a person has traveled to an area where Zika has spread and contracted the virus. Both infected women and men can pass the virus to their sex partners, even if they have not shown symptoms of infection, according to the CDC. In addition, infected pregnant women can transmit the virus to the fetus.

Some studies have also shown that the virus can be found in the blood, semen, urine and saliva of infected people, as well as in eye fluids.

What are the symptoms of Zika disease?

The disease can cause fever, rash, pain in the joints, and redness (pink or pink eyes) in the white part of the eyes. But most people don’t know they have it.

“Only one in five people will show symptoms of this virus. “The vast majority of people have no symptoms.”

According to the CDC, symptoms can appear anywhere within 3 to 14 days after the mosquito bite. They can last from a few days to a week or more.

The CDC says that if you have symptoms and live in an area where Zika has spread or have been in an area where Zika has spread, call your doctor, especially if you’re pregnant. Pregnant women who develop symptoms of Zika at any time during pregnancy should be tested for Zika.

Once a person is infected, scientists believe they can protect themselves against future infections.

Is Zika virus similar to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya or West Nile virus?

All of them can cause a variety of flu-like symptoms, varying in severity and can last from a few days to over a week. As with Zika, few people infected with dengue or West Nile will have symptoms. Although the same types of mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya, many different types of mosquitoes transmit West Nile virus.

Zika is also the only virus known to be transmitted through sexual contact.

How is Zika treated?

There is no cure, but most people with symptoms do well with over-the-counter pain and suffering medications. The disease usually takes its course in about a week.

The CDC recommends that infected people get plenty of rest, drink fluids to avoid dehydration, and take acetaminophen for fever and pain. Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should not be taken until dengue fever is ruled out, in order to reduce the risk of bleeding, according to the agency.

There is no vaccine against Zika, but the National Institutes of Health is testing one in humans.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy

Zika virus in areas of local transmission has highlighted the risk of serious birth defects in unborn children, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency in 2015. CDC publishes a guide for American travelers and caregivers health conditions of pregnant women exposed to the Zika virus. Pregnant women themselves do not seem to have a more serious illness or be more likely to be infected.

In particular, women at risk of becoming pregnant or attempting to become pregnant should postpone travel to areas where Zika virus transmission occurs after pregnancy or until public health authorities have declared the area free from Zika. . If you cannot avoid traveling to these areas, women and men should

  • take strict precautions to avoid mosquitoes, and
  • Use strict barrier precautions (male or female condom, dental protection) during sex for several weeks after returning to a Zika-free area.

Women may want to discuss the use of an effective second form of birth control with their doctor before traveling to be on the safe side. (See Can we prevent Zika virus infections?)

Women who may have been infected during pregnancy should see a doctor to closely monitor the pregnancy for the possibility of birth defects or other problems. It is not possible to predict whether or not the Zika virus will affect an exposed woman or fetus at this time. The CDC recommends the following:

  • Pregnant women should consult with their health care providers about travel during pregnancy. Health professionals should also ask about travel during pregnancy or family planning.
  • Male partners of women who are or may become pregnant should avoid sex or use condoms during pregnancy.
  • The Zika virus test is available from the CDC and U.S. State Health Services. Health care providers should check with the local health department for testing for Zika virus in the United States. following situations:
  • A pregnant woman traveled to an area where Zika virus was transmitted and had at least two symptoms of Zika fever (fever, maculopapular rash, joint pain or pink eye) within two weeks of travel.
  • A woman has a history and the uterine ultrasound of the fetus shows microcephaly or intracranial calcifications.
  • A PCR blood test for Zika virus can be used to test the mother or the newborn.
  • It is not known how reliable a Zika virus PCR is when performed in amniotic fluid, but a positive result may be useful information, so the risks and benefits of this test (amniocentesis) may also be. to be taken into account.
  • Placental blood, umbilical cord and umbilical cord tests should be done at birth or in case of miscarriage.
  • If laboratory tests confirm Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman, periodic ultrasounds should be considered to monitor the fetus. She should also be referred to a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine.
  • Women who have been exposed to Zika virus have likely been exposed to dengue fever and chikungunya, which have similar symptoms, so testing for other infections may also be considered.
  • Once the Zika infection resolves, it does not affect future pregnancies.

How do you test Zika?

There are two ways to get tested for Zika. A test looks for fragments of the virus’s genetic code in people with active infections. But once the body clears the infection, which takes about 2 weeks after symptoms appear, the test won’t work.

The FDA has approved the emergency use of a more advanced version of this test that can distinguish whether a person has dengue, chikungunya, or zika, rather than having to perform three different tests. The new version is in qualified laboratories, specifies the CDC.

Since 80% of people with Zika have no symptoms, many people don’t know when they got infected and would not be eligible for this test.

Another test looks for proteins called antibodies produced by the immune system to fight the virus. You can find antibodies in the blood for up to 3 months after infection.

But this test is not very specific. This can incorrectly show that a person has contracted the Zika virus if they have been infected with other viruses, including dengue and chikungunya. A positive or inconclusive test result means that the CDC or a laboratory authorized by the CDC is performing a follow-up test.

The FDA has approved this test and the CDC distributes it to qualified labs..

The amniotic fluid test can also be performed on pregnant women, although it is not known how this test would work for Zika, according to the CDC.

What are complications from Zika virus infection?

Most Zika virus infections do not have lasting effects or complications. However, Zika virus infection can be serious in some cases. Zika virus infection can cause meningoencephalitis.

Zika appears to be a “neurotropic” virus, which means that it strikes the tissues of the nervous system. Guillain-Barré, a severe neurological syndrome, has been reported with outbreaks of Zika virus. More seriously, Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly and physical deformities. Microcephaly causes an abnormally small head due to a delay in brain development.

The eyes and ears are part of the central nervous system, and hearing problems have been reported in adults with Zika virus, as well as in babies with microcephaly. In December 2015, in Brazil, a study of 29 babies with microcephaly found eye abnormalities and vision problems in about a third of them. Other deformities, such as deformed joints, have been documented and also appear to be associated with developmental nerve damage. Infection at any time during pregnancy can be associated with serious abnormalities discovered at birth or later. The earlier the infection occurs in pregnancy, the smaller the head and the more severe the defects. Early infection was associated with spontaneous abortion.

In Brazil, late-onset microcephaly has been described in up to one in five babies born to mothers infected with Zika virus. The head appears normal at birth, but is not growing properly. At six months, the brain stops growing and serious problems become apparent.

Babies with Zika virus complications during pregnancy may have many medical needs and may need nursing help at home.

How to prevent Zika?

If you plan to travel to affected areas, avoid mosquito bites by using repellant throughout the day. Also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, inside and out.

Mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus are aggressive bites during the day, often found indoors, that we’re not used to in the United States, says Weaver, director of the Institute of Human Infections and Immunity.

“You have to protect yourself all day, ”he said..

The CDC recommends the use of insect repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil (para-methanediol), or 2-undecanone. If you are using sunscreen, apply the first and second repellents.

In your home, use screens on windows and doors and remove standing water (in tires, buckets, flowerpots and flowerpots, for example), as mosquitoes lay eggs near the house. ‘water.

Even those who don’t know they have Zika virus can spread the disease. Weaver says people who have visited the affected areas should be extremely vigilant for mosquito bites when they return home. The CDC also recommends the use of condoms or sexual abstinence for 8 weeks for women or 6 months for men to prevent sexual transmission.

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