The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus to be a Public Health Emergency of International concern, last year. Now, with three adults of Zika virus being reported between November 2016 and February 2017, in Gujarat, coming to light, it is high time that people are aware of this disease.
Moreover, the fact that none of the Zika infected patients, their spouses or relatives had travelled to any country with Zika virus transmission, is making it more of a cause of concern.
Let’s begin by understanding what is Zika.
“Zika is a disease caused by Zika Virus and is spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Symptoms are very similar to viral illnesses including fever, joint pains, rash and conjunctival suffusion. The symptoms can be present roughly about a week post being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, since there is no treatment for Zika, it is important that one takes all the necessary precaution to stay safe,” said Dr. Rini Banerjee, Consultant Infectious Disease, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur.
Keep safe from Zika virus:
Since there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, the best way to prevent disease is to protect oneself from mosquito bites. They include:
- To wear long sleeved shirts and long pants
- Air conditioned rooms, Rooms that have window and door screens to prevent mosquito entry would be useful
- Insect repellents can prevent mosquito bites
- To sleep under mosquito nets in case one is not able to use insect repellents
- Pregnant women [ any trimester]- should avoid travel to areas with on-going Zika virus transmission, as it can lead to congenital defects like microencephaly / poor pregnancy outcomes. Postpone your travel if possible. If contemplating travel, pregnant women must seek advice from health care provider
Protect babies/ kids from the virus:
- Avoid use of insect repellents on babies younger than two months of age.
- Dress children in clothing that covers arms and legs
- Cover the baby carrier/ crib with mosquito netting
- For older children, spray insect repellent onto one’s hands and then apply to child’s face.
Tips to deal with Zika, if affected:
If you are affected by the Zika virus, adequate rest, hydration and supportive care are the best ways to get through the disease. One can take the following measures as suggested by Dr. Rini:
- Symptomatic treatment in form of rest, fluids and anti-pyretic agents.
- Protect others: During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and can be transmitted from an infected person to another person through bite of mosquitoes. An infected mosquito can then transmit infection to other people. It may be reasonable to protect oneself from mosquito bites during the first week of illness so that other people do not fall sick.