Zika is a virus that is mostly transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, while alternative routes of infection exist.
Scientists searching for yellow fever (a separate viral ailment) in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947 found the virus in samples collected from a rhesus monkey. The virus was obtained from a mosquito the next year. Human cases were first recorded in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania in 1952.
Zika outbreaks have been reported in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The virus expanded through Latin and Central America in 2015, causing the first outbreak in the Americas.
The first epidemic in the continental United States was traced to Miami-Dade County, Florida, in July 2016.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains an up-to-date global map of Zika transmission hotspots.
Many persons infected with the Zika virus will have minor or no symptoms, according to the CDC. People seldom become ill enough to necessitate hospitalization, and symptoms can persist for up to a week.
A Zika infection, on the other hand, is particularly dangerous for pregnant women since it can cause birth abnormalities. According to CDC research, approximately one in every seven kids born to Zika-infected mothers experienced health issues such as small head size, brain damage, and vision or hearing impairment. The virus may also be connected to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon but serious neurological illness marked by widespread weakness, according to research.
Zika Virus Infection Signs and Symptoms
Only around one-fifth of Zika-infected people show signs or symptoms. As a result, many people are unaware they are infected. When symptoms do appear, they usually appear within a week of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Zika symptoms may include:
- Fever and skin rash
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Muscle or joint pain
These symptoms are usually mild and last approximately a week.
Zika Virus Infection Causes and Risk Factors
The Zika virus is predominantly transmitted by the bites of infected Aedes mosquitos (particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus).
These mosquitos often bite during the day, although they can also bite at night. They typically lay eggs near standing water and can live both indoors and outdoors. They are the same mosquitos that spread the viruses that cause dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
When mosquitoes feed on someone who already has the virus, they become infected and spread it to other individuals through their bites.
Other, less prevalent mechanisms for the Zika virus to propagate exist. Some of these alleged ways of transmission have yet to be proven or require further investigation. SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection, does not spread by respiratory droplets.
From Mother to Child
Zika can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
The virus has been detected in breast milk, and infections in breastfed babies have been reported. However, no examples of kids experiencing health difficulties as a result of breastfeeding a woman infected with the Zika virus have been reported.
Transfusion of blood
According to the CDC, there have been reports in Brazil of suspected Zika virus transmission by blood transfusion, although there have been no verified transfusion-related illnesses.
Health officials have proven that the Zika virus may be spread sexually through unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. The virus is more active in sperm than in other body fluids like blood and urine.
Asymptomatic transmission occurs when an infected person spreads the virus before or after developing symptoms.
Healthcare and Laboratory Environments
Some cases of Zika virus infection have been reported in laboratories.
There have been no reported cases of Zika virus transmission in a US healthcare facility However, the CDC offers advice to healthcare personnel on how to avoid possible exposure when coming into touch with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids.
There have been no instances of pets or other animals falling ill with the Zika virus or spreading it to humans, according to the CDC. A new study, however, discovered that maternal Zika virus infection in nonhuman primates is linked to miscarriages and stillbirths.
How Is Zika Detected?
A blood or urine test can reveal a Zika virus infection. There are tests available to detect the presence of the virus in the body, as well as serological tests that search for antibodies produced by the body to combat infection (however this test is less accurate; the same test can detect viruses such as chikungunya and dengue).
Testing for Zika is usually advised if a person develops symptoms after visiting a high-risk location or having unprotected intercourse with a partner who has visited a high-risk area.
Women who are pregnant and may have been exposed to Zika should be tested. If a fetal ultrasound reveals probable Zika-related problems, your doctor will want to test for infection.
Because many persons infected with the virus have no symptoms or just moderate symptoms, the illness may go unnoticed.
Zika Virus Infection Prognosis
It is estimated that approximately 80% of persons who contract the Zika virus never show any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they are usually minor. It is extremely rare for Zika to necessitate hospitalization or result in death.
Microcephaly is a birth disorder in which babies are born with unusually small heads due to the brain failing to develop properly or not growing. The prognosis for infants born with microcephaly as a result of Zika infection in gestation is unknown. According to a 2017 study published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the death rate for confirmed instances of microcephaly is 8.3 percent.
A research of 1,450 infants that used data from the United States Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry found that 14% of 1-year-old children who were exposed to the Zika virus in utero had health concerns that could have been caused by the infection, such as birth deformities or neurological disorders.
Infection with the Zika Virus lasts for 30 days.
When infected with Zika, one in every five people develops symptoms, which typically last two to seven days.
Options for Zika Virus Treatment and Medication
There is no Zika vaccine, and treatment of the virus infection mainly consists of symptom management due to the lack of approved antiviral medicines.
The CDC suggests the following steps to alleviate viral symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Get lots of sleep.
- To alleviate pain and fever, use acetaminophen.
- Take aspirin, ibuprofen, or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) only after consulting with your doctor.
- If you become infected with the Zika virus, tell your doctor about all of the medications you’re taking.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
A range of herbs and natural products may be marketed as a way to prevent or treat the Zika virus. There is no convincing evidence that any of these products can be used to prevent or cure Zika, according to the CDC.
Infection Prevention with the Zika Virus
According to experts, the greatest way of protection is to keep yourself and others from being bitten by mosquitos in the first place. If you have Zika, avoid contact with mosquitos during the first week of illness to prevent the virus from spreading further.
You can safeguard yourself in numerous ways:
- Use an insect repellent that has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contains active chemicals such as DEET and picaridin. The EPA provides an online search engine to assist you in selecting the appropriate repellant. However, do not use insect repellent on babies under the age of two months.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Look for accommodations that have air conditioning or screens to keep mosquitos at bay.
- Permethrin is an insecticide that can be used to treat clothing.
- If you’re sleeping outside, use a mosquito bed net.
- Mosquito netting can be used to cover a baby’s crib, stroller, or carrier.
- Remove any stagnant water that has accumulated in pots, buckets, birdbaths, or garbage cans.
Because Zika is spread through intercourse, using condoms can minimize the chance of infection.
Zika can be transferred sexually from someone who has no symptoms, so evaluate whether a sexual partner has lived or traveled to a high-risk Zika area.
Women who are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant should avoid traveling to Zika-risk areas.
The Consequences of Zika Virus Infection
Although most people recover from Zika within a week, the infection can cause catastrophic problems.
Zika Virus and Pregnancy
Because Zika virus infection has been related to miscarriage and birth abnormalities, pregnant women should take extra care to protect themselves.
Women who are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant should reconsider traveling to locations where Zika is a risk, according to the CDC. If expecting moms must travel, they should consult with their doctor ahead of time to devise a plan to avoid mosquito bites and practice safe sex.
Pregnant women returning from a Zika-risk location should call their doctor right away if they experience any symptoms.
The CDC urges men who intend to conceive not to engage in unprotected intercourse for at least three months following any probable Zika exposure or symptoms because the virus can remain in sperm for an extended period.
Microcephaly has been connected to Zika infection during pregnancy. The problem may be present from birth or develop over the first few years of a child’s life.
Microcephaly is frequently associated with developmental delays and intellectual difficulties. It has also been related to seizures, mobility, and balance issues, hearing loss, visual abnormalities, and swallowing difficulties. Severe cases are potentially fatal.
A Zika virus outbreak in northeast Brazil in 2015 was followed by an increase in reported cases of microcephaly. According to research, there is a substantial link between microcephaly and Zika virus infection.
Statistics and research: How many people are infected with Zika?
The CDC’s national database tracks any Zika virus cases reported in the United States.
In the year 2020, three instances of Zika virus sickness were reported in the United States; each of these cases involved travelers returning from contaminated locations.
There were 48 Zika virus disease cases reported in US territories (Puerto Rico was the only territory with documented cases), and all of those cases were thought to have been acquired by local mosquito-borne transmission.
In 2016, there were 5,168 Zika virus cases recorded in the United States, with 224 of them transmitted by local mosquitoes. There were 36,512 cases in US territories, almost all of which were transmitted by local mosquitos. There were 35,395 cases in Puerto Rico, 986 in the Virgin Islands, and 131 in American Samoa.
Today’s Zika Virus and New Research
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency in February 2016 and initiated a global effort to coordinate the development of vaccines and therapies.
Researchers built the most comprehensive structure of the Zika virus to date in June 2018, which could aid in the development of future vaccinations or therapies.
Researchers are also investigating how the Zika virus, by attacking cancer cells, could be utilized to treat certain tumors such as neuroblastoma, a prevalent form of childhood cancer.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
Following Zika outbreaks, some nations have observed an increase in instances of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a devastating condition in which the immune system attacks the lining of nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and, in severe cases, paralysis. It is uncommon but usually arises after a respiratory or gastrointestinal virus disease, with one to two instances reported per 100,000 people in the United States each year.
Although research suggests that Guillain-Barré syndrome is significantly linked to Zika, only a tiny fraction of patients infected with the Zika virus develop GBS.
Other Diseases Caused by Insects
According to new CDC data, the number of mosquito-borne infections spread by other insects such as ticks more than tripled between 2004 and 2016. almost 13 years, recorded instances increased from 27,388 in 2004 to almost 96,000 in 2016, for a total of 642,602 cases — and those figures may be substantially underreported.
As concerning as the growth in known diseases is the discovery of nine novel pathogens spread by mosquitos and ticks in the United States and its territories since 2004. The Bourbon virus, a rare and deadly tick-borne disease discovered in Bourbon County, Kansas, in 2014, and the Heartland virus, which is most likely transmitted by lone star ticks and is native to the Midwest and South, are two examples.