What Is The Zika Virus? How To Catch, Symptoms, Treatment, Countries Affected

When the Zika virus was raised to high-alert in Brazil and Martinique, worries grew about it spreading across the rest of the world. From symptoms, to treatment and transmission, here is everything you need to know about the Zika virus.

What Is The Zika Virus? How To Catch, Symptoms, Treatment, Countries Affected
What Is The Zika Virus? How To Catch, Symptoms, Treatment, Countries Affected

What is the Zika virus?

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The Zika virus is an arbovirus, a member of the family of Flaviviridae viruses, of the Flavivirus genus. It is part of the same group as the dengue and chikungunya viruses. Its name comes from the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was first identified in 1947. Until the 1970s, this was just an isolated case. The first epidemic of the Zika virus was recorded in 2007 on the Yap island of Micronesia.

Symptoms of the Zika fever

Symptoms of the Zika virus will appear in less than 1 in 5 cases (approximately 18% of cases). As soon as the infection breaks out, it’s then referred to as the Zika fever. The symptoms it produces are similar to those of other arboviruses, making it difficult to diagnose:

- an outbreak of a bumpy, red rash will initially appear on the face before spreading to the rest of the body

- a high temperature (of more than 38.5°C) which comes with severe headaches

- Conjunctivitus

- Arthritis or joint pains (arthralgia)

- Muscle aches (myalgia)

- A variety of other temporary symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness etc.

The incubation period of the Zika virus, which is the time that the virus remains inside the body, is unknown. The symptoms usually disappear after around 7 days. Currently, there have been no recorded instances of death from the Zika virus. However, serious complications have been noted. These complications have included problems with the nervous system and foetal deformities in pregnant women who are infected.

How can you catch the Zika virus?

The virus is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites. This is a type of transmission by a vector/ carrier: after biting an infected creature, the mosquito then carries the virus without being affected by it and transmits it to whoever it bites afterwards.

Several mosquitos have been identified as carriers of the virus. Just like the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the carriers are often reported in tropical areas. However, the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes albopictus mosquito, more commonly known as the tiger mosquito which has been said to have settled in almost every country in the world.

According to recent studies, the Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. This is a unique phenomenon within the Flavivirus family.

Treatment for the Zika virus

No viral or vaccination treatments have been found to tackle the Zika fever. Treatment is therefore exclusively based on an individual’s symptoms. It is mainly made up of taking paracetamol to fight against high-temperature and pains. However, aspirin and ibuprofen are not prescribed as they can lead to a haemorrhage like in the cases of dengue or chikungunya infections.

Where is the virus present?

It was initially found solely in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, but now scientists are becoming increasingly worried about the spread of the virus. In 2015, for the first time, the virus had been found in the American content of Brazil. It arrived in the country following the football World Cup in 2014. According to the Secretary of State for health, more than 2,400 cases were discovered in December. Moreover, the island of Martinique launched a health warning at the start of 2016. Twelve cases were confirmed and more than 150 others were suspected. The authorities fear a double epidemic with dengue fever too.

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