The number of people tested positive for the Zika virus is one the rise in Rajasthan, according to recent reports. With the increase in the number of cases in the northern states, there have been concerns about the spread of this mosquito-borne infection to other regions. This is the reason why every person should be aware of the basic questions concerning the spread of the disease, ways to prevent Zika, the time taken for the symptoms to appear, etc. So to help you know more about Zika, here are some answers to the most common and frequently asked questions about Zika.
1. How does Zika spread?
Zika is a viral disease which is primarily transmitted when an Aedes mosquito (mainly Aedes aegypti) infected with the Zika virus bites a healthy individual. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion, and organ transplantation. It can also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy.
2. When do the Zika causing mosquitoes bite?
The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus are the same as those that spread other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika usually bite during the day, especially during early morning and late afternoon/evening.
3. Where do these mosquitoes breed?
Aedes mosquitoes breed in stagnant water near your homes, schools or construction sites. The mosquito breeding sites in your house could be water storage tanks or containers, flower pots, AC trays, uncovered dustbins and dark corners of your room. Also read Is Your Home A Mosquito Magnet?
4. What are the symptoms of Zika virus in adults?
In most cases, people infected with Zika virus do not show any symptoms. It usually causes mild symptoms such as slight fever or rash which appears a few days after an infected mosquito bites a healthy person. In some cases, symptoms such as conjunctivitis, muscle pain, joint pain, malaise, fatigue, and headache are also seen. The symptoms usually last from two to seven days.
5. How long is a person contagious with Zika?
The incubation period of Zika infection is estimated to be 3-14 days. Hence, once exposed to the Zika virus, it usually takes around 3-14 days for the symptoms to appear. There is no well defined contagious period for Zika infection, though the virus may remain in body fluids like semen for around three months. Although the virus is not contagious during this time, the virus can spread from a person to other through sex.
6. How long should you wait to get pregnant after traveling to a country with Zika?
The WHO recommends that a person who has traveled to a country with ZIka should practice safe sex. It is best to abstain from sex for a period of six months for men and two months for women returning from Zika affected areas to prevent sexual transmission of the virus if any.
7. How can I get tested for Zika?
If your doctor suspects Zika infection, he might ask you to get tested for the virus to confirm the presence of virus in the blood or other body fluids such as urine or serum. If you have traveled to an area where Zika virus is prevalent or show symptoms of Zika infection, then you might have to get tested.
8. What treatments are available for Zika?
There is no specific treatment available for Zika infection. However, the treatment is aimed at reducing the severity of the symptoms. People with the infection are advised to take sufficient rest, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and take medicine to reduce fever and pain as advised by the doctor. If the symptoms become worse, seek urgent medical care.
9. Is Zika virus deadly?
In most cases, Zika infection can be managed if diagnosed on time. However, in 1% of the cases, it can be fatal. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other congenital abnormalities in the fetus. It can also cause complications during pregnancy such as stillbirth, preterm delivery, or miscarriage. It is also known as a trigger of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes neuropathy and myelitis, especially in adults and older kids.
10. Is there a vaccine for Zika?
As of now, there is no vaccine available to prevent or treat Zika virus infection. However, there is active research going on for the development of a Zika vaccine.
11. How to prevent Zika?
The best way to stay protected against the Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bite. Wear full sleeves and light colored clothes, use mosquito repellents, sleep under mosquito nets and eliminate mosquito breeding sites. Special attention should be given to pregnant women and young children.
A person infected with Zika virus can spread it to his/her partner through sex. Hence, the use of consistent and correct use of condoms can help lower the chance of getting the infection from sex.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)