What You Need to Know About Zika Virus

Although zika virus has been documented for some time, it has caught the attention of the media recently because of a rise of cases in several countries. Most people now associate the then-harmless disease with congenital defects on newborn babies whose mothers are infected by the virus.

Here are some of the things we know about zika so far.

Zika Outbreaks in Previous Years
Zika was first described in 1947 among monkeys and in 1952 among humans. There were also recorded outbreaks in subtropical and tropical countries from the 1960s to the 1980s, although the symptoms were, and still are, often considered milder than other mosquito-borne diseases. It was only in 2015 that the virus was associated with the Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly among infants that it has taken the spotlight.

How Zika is Transmitted
Studies are still ongoing about the virus to find a treatment, but its known primary mode of transmission is through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same genus that is responsible for deadly diseases such as dengue. Researchers are still studying the possibility of virus transmission through blood and other bodily fluids, because there are studies that show the virus can also be found in other body fluids such as the urine, eye fluids, saliva, and semen.

Diagnosis of Zika Virus Infection
People who suspect that they are infected with the virus will need to have their travel history checked before tests on blood and body fluid samples can be done. The incubation period of the virus is still unknown, and the symptoms are milder than those shown among individuals infected with dengue, for example. The symptoms go away after a few days and sometimes do not even need any treatment. What makes zika infection dangerous, however, is if the infected individual is pregnant. Studies in recent years show that the virus causes brain abnormalities in the baby. It is still unclear if it also causes other neurological disorders in newborns.

Zika Virus and Sexual Transmission
Although studies are still scarce about the connection of zika infection to sexual transmission, some researchers suspect that it might be linked to pregnancy. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that couples should use contraceptives for a six-month period in areas where zika outbreaks have occurred to prevent adverse pregnancies. Expectant mothers are also advised not to travel to countries affected by the virus to prevent such complications.

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