Even though few people have lost their life to the Zika Virus, it is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous diseases in the world due to fetal defects.
During the last ten months, the Zika Virus has terrorised most parts of the world. Pregnant women face the most worrying consequences with the virus causing serious birth defects, among them Microcephaly, other severe fetal brain defects, and impaired growth, according to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
Recent research has also found links between the Zika Virus and other diseases. According to the CDC, several countries who reported recent Zika outbreaks also reported an increase in people diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. This is a rare nerve disease, which causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralyses. Most people recover completely and very few people lose their lives to this disease. The connection between Zika and Guillain-Barré has not been proven, but CDC research strongly indicates that the two are linked.
Four in five people who are infected with the Zika Virus have no symptoms and can therefore be completely unaware that they are carrying the disease.
The most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Other symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
Few people have died from the Zika Virus, for most people the symptoms pass after a week. While authorities are currently working on a vaccine for the Zika virus, so far there is no cure and the only treatments available are:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
Zika Virus spread through sex and mosquitos
By now most people know that the Zika Virus is most commonly is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes who spread chikungunya and dengue viruses. The mosquitoes themselves become infected after biting an infected human, the CDC writes.
It has been proven that the Zika Virus can be spread through unprotected sex, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) worry the disease will spread through symptomatic male travellers who come home to their partners.
People who have travelled to areas with recent Zika outbreaks are being told to always use a condom. Men diagnosed with Zika should also wait at least six months before attempting to have a child, and women with a Zika diagnosis should wait at least eight weeks, according to the Guardian.
“If you’re pregnant, you’re in a very delicate situation,” said medical epidemiologist Dr John Brooks, a senior medical adviser at the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS and STD Prevention to CNN. “You want to do everything you can to protect that baby. So our recommendation is to defer unprotected sexual contact for the entire pregnancy to protect against an outcome that could last a lifetime.”
Both men and women can spread the virus through sex, but men are more likely to pass on the virus through unprotected sex and do not have to display symptoms themselves to be contagious, according to recent studies.
The CDC writes that it is currently unclear how long the virus can stay in a man’s semen. Caution and regular STI testing is advised for anyone who has been travelling in areas where they might have been exposed to the Zika Virus.
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Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley