The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday confirmed India’s first three cases of Zika virus. The Health Ministry reported that all the cases are from Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, including a pregnant woman. The following are some questions and answers about the outbreak.
What is Zika?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection. It is now known that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects in newborn called microcephaly – condition defined by small heads and brain damage, along with other defects like blindness, deafness, seizures and other congenital defects.
Zika virus can also lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of temporary paralysis in adults, that has links to other neurological complications.
What are the symptoms of Zika infection?
The symptoms of Zika are similar to dengue, and include fever rarely higher than 102 degrees, skin rashes, bloodshot eyes, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
How do people become infected?
Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected female mosquito, primarily the Aedes aegypti. This mosquito also spreads yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening.
Can Zika be transmitted through sexual contact?
Yes. Although Zika virus is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes, it can also be sexually transmitted as well. Zika virus can be transmitted by vaginal and anal sex, and possibly by oral sex.
Due to adverse pregnancy and fetal outcomes, the WHO recommends women to avoid contact with semen from men who have visited areas where the virus is transmitted. Pregnant women are advised to practise safer sex (including correct and consistent use of condoms) or abstain until they give birth.
What is the history of the Zika virus in India?
In India, before the three cases, the only time any trace of the Zika was recorded was in 1952-53. In a study titled ‘Neutralising antibodies against certain viruses in the sera of the residents of India’, published in a journal called The Journal of Immunology, recorded among other viruses, antibodies to the Zika virus.
How do you treat Zika?
Zika has no treatment or vaccine. The symptoms of Zika virus are mild – usually require common treatment like rest, drinking enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.