Zika Virus: A New Threat to Humanity?

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. For most people it’s a very mild infection and is not harmful. But it may be more serious for pregnant women, and causes birth defects.

Zika outbreaks have been reported in the Pacific region, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and parts of south and southeast Asia. The virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947.

Most cases of Zika virus disease are spread by infected mosquitoes biting humans. Unlike the mosquitoes that spread malaria, the Aedes mosquitoes are most active during the day, especially during morning, and late afternoon to dusk.

Most people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they’re usually less and last around 2 to 7 days. General symptoms include rash, itching all over the body, high temperature, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, red eyes (conjunctivitis), lower back pain, pain behind eyes.

To prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent that contains DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on exposed skin after sunscreen has been applied. Always ensure there is no water stagnation at homes and its surroundings. Wearing loose clothing that covers your arms and legs and sleeping under a mosquito net can also help a lot.

Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment for Zika virus. No vaccine is yet available for the prevention or treatment. Drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol may help relieve symptoms.

Scientists believe that Zika virus is a cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which your immune system attacks your nerves, causing weakness and tingling that usually begins in the feet and legs. The weakness can spread quickly and eventually paralyze the whole body if not treated immediately.

Kerala reported the first case of Zika virus in 2021. The first official case of the mosquito-borne viral infection was detected in the blood samples of a 24 year old pregnant woman in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala.

The patient was diagnosed and hospitalized at KIMs and the doctors confirmed that the woman is stable. 13 more samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to find traces of the virus. She was suffering from symptoms like fever, joint pain, and skin rashes. Of the 19 samples sent to Thiruvananthapuram, 13 are health workers, doctors and are suspected to be positive. Five more people, including four women, have tested positive for the infection in Kerala yesterday, taking the case count in the state to 28. India had already seen Zika outbreaks in 2017 and 2018, with hundreds of cases reported in western Gujarat and Rajasthan as well as central Madhya Pradesh.

So, is Zika Virus really a threat to humanity? Though it is not fully guaranteed that deaths will not occur because of the virus, the chances of that happening are very rare and uncommon. Most cases have no or very few mild symptoms and a lot of times a person who got the virus will not even be aware that they have the virus or had it at some point of their lives. The virus is however dangerous to new born babies who get it from their virus infected mothers during pregnancy. Therefore, all of us must take necessary precaution to protect us and our surrounding from being a target for the Zika Virus.

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