Zika virus cases rise in Pune: Know all about this mosquito-borne infection

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that spreads from a mosquito bite. Know all about its symptoms, prevention and treatment.
mosquito bite
Zika virus can be prevented with the right treatment. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Arushi Bidhuri Published: 2 Jul 2024, 05:27 pm IST
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The monsoon season is back, and so is Zika virus! As many as six people, including two pregnant women, have been reportedly affected by this mosquito-borne infection, in Pune. Zika virus can pose multiple health risks for a patient, and in pregnant women especially, it may affect the mother and the foetus too. Here’s everything you need to know about the Zika virus and how to prevent it.

What is Zika virus?

The Zika virus, which was first discovered in Uganda in 1947, is classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a vector-borne illness that spreads from a bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The name of this life-threatening virus comes from the Ziika forest in Uganda, where it was first detected. It spreads similarly to chikungunya and dengue. It is caused by an organism that makes multiple copies using your cells. Most people, infected with it, show mild symptoms. Additionally, sexual contact and organ transplantation are two ways in which the disease can spread from a pregnant mother to the developing foetus.

So far, there is no vaccine available to prevent or treat Zika, and the best way to safeguard yourself is by preventing yourself against mosquito bites.

Zika virus
Zika virus is a vector-borne illness. Image Courtesy: Adobe stock

Symptoms of Zika virus

People infected with this virus may not show any symptoms at all. According to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the most common symptoms of the Zika virus include:

  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis or red eyes
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Pain in the muscles

Symptoms of the infection may last for several days to a week. People do not get sick enough to go to the hospital as many would not realize that they have been infected.

Are there any complications of Zika virus?

Cases of Zika virus are generally mild and are uncommon. It can cause serious birth defects during pregnancy, as per CDC. It may even lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a condition that affects a person’s immunity and causes muscle weakness or paralysis. People generally recover from Zika virus in some time, and does not lead to permanent damage.

In rare cases, it may cause severe disease affecting the brain, causing swelling of the brain (encephalitis), tissues around the brain (meningitis), and spinal cord (myelitis).

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will ask you if you have traveled to a place with a current or past Zika virus outbreak. They will also check any symptoms you may be experiencing. They will ask when the symptoms of the infection began as they can resemble other viral infections and can lead to problems.

In the case of pregnant women who may be showing symptoms, your doctor will do an ultrasound to check for abnormalities and other possibilities of transmission. While new tests are required, some blood, urine, and saliva tests can help confirm Zika.

Treatment

While there is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection, it is recommended that people infected with the disease get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and use antipyretics and/or analgesics to relieve their symptoms. In case symptoms worsen, it is vital to get an immediate medical check-up for laboratory tests and proper care.

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How to prevent Zika virus?

1. Use a mosquito repellent that contains at least 10 percent concentration of DEET (chemical name, N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).
2. Wear long-sleeved shorts and pants, especially during the morning or evening when there are higher chances of getting bitten by a mosquito.
3. Use bed nets if you are living in an area with a lot of mosquitoes.
4. Get rid of any stagnant water around your house to control breeding sites for mosquitoes.
5. It can be transmitted sexually, so it is important to practice safe sex by using condoms.
6. Stay updated on travel advisories and warnings related to the Zika virus.
7. Avoid touching an infected person. Also, avoid touching an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids like their vomit or urine.
8. Pregnant women should be more vigilant and should get regular checkups to avoid birth complications in children.

How does Zika virus affect pregnant women?

Out of the six people who have been infected with Zika virus in Pune, two pregnant women have also tested positive. Zika virus is a severe infection that can be significantly harmful to pregnant women. It poses a significant risk of various health complications for pregnant women and the foetus, Dr Padma Srivastava, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospitals.

One of the most severe risks of the Zika virus is microcephaly. It is a serious condition, where the baby is born with abnormal birth defects like a small head and brain. This can potentially cause a delay in the overall development of the baby and lead to intellectual disabilities. It can also lead to other birth defects like brain damage, severe issues with vision, and joint problems. Zika infection can affect the placenta which can lead to complications like insufficient oxygen and nutrient supply to the fetus.

A woman having pelvic pain during pregnancy
Zika virus can be dangerous for pregnant women. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Zika virus prevention tips for pregnant women

This is why it becomes essential for pregnant women to take the necessary steps to minimize the risk of Zika during pregnancy:

  • Pregnant women are advised to wear appropriate clothing which can protect them from getting exposed to infected mosquitoes.
  • Make sure to apply mosquito repellents on your clothes before stepping out of your home.
  • Choose mosquito repellents with effective ingredients like DEET, picaridin, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus oil for better protection.
  • Avoid going outdoors if not necessary to reduce the risk of developing Zika virus.

Immediately consult your doctor if you start to experience symptoms like conjunctivitis where your eyes become swollen and red, mild to severe fever, rashes, persistent headache, and muscle and joint pain. Do not neglect or try to treat these symptoms with home remedies as they can only worsen your condition, recommends Dr Srivastava.

Frequently asked questions

1. How long does Zika virus infection last?

Zika virus can lead to the development of a maculopapular rash which usually gives on its own within 1 to 4 days after it begins.

2. When does Zika virus affect pregnancy?

It can affect pregnancy at any stage of the pregnancy. However, you might be at a higher risk during the first trimester compared to the second and third trimester.

3. Is there a vaccine for Zika?

Currently, there is no clinically approved vaccine or drug available to fight the infection. However, a vaccine is under clinical trial which got its first FDA approval in 2016, followed by a phase-2 approval in March 2017.

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About the Author

Arushi Bidhuri is a journalist with 7 years of experience in writing, editing, and conceptualizing story ideas across different genres, including health and wellness, lifestyle, politics, beauty, fashion, and more. Arushi has a strong connection in the industry that helps her write concise and original stories as she believes in working towards writing pieces that can enlighten people. ...Read More

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