Zika virus disease is a tropical disease which is transmitted by the same type of mosquito that spreads Dengue and Chikungunya virus. The first case of Zika virus was identified in Zika Valley in Africa in 1947 hence its name. As of January 2016, World Health Organization (WHO) announced a Zika outbreak and urged people, especially pregnant women against travel to countries where the disease is spreading rapidly, particularly in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Carribean and other parts of Central and South America.
Zika is a relatively mild disease. Only 1 in 5 infected people can show signs and symptoms of having the disease. Exhibiting serious symptoms can be so rare that the disease can be undiagnosed and may be mistaken as a simple case of the flu or mild dengue due to the similarities of their signs and symptoms. Deaths are also extremely rare. The spread of Zika virus disease caused great alarm in its association with cases of microcephaly or unusually small heads and/or underdeveloped brains in newborns of mothers infected with the virus.
Aside from microcephaly, Zika disease is also being linked with a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which can begin from weakness or tingling sensation in the muscles and may progress to paralysis. Studies are still under way to investigate the suspected link of Zika virus with microcephaly and GBS. In the meantime, it is recommended to avoid travel in locations with reported widespread of the disease, especially for pregnant women.
Currently, there is no preventive vaccine or cure for Zika virus disease. A person infected is only given symptomatic and supportive care. A pregnant woman who traveled to a high-risk area should immediately get checked by having amniocentesis.
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Zika virus disease prevention is focused towards protection against mosquito bites. Measures to avoid mosquito bites when staying in at-risk areas:
Avoid traveling to high-risk areas with reported cases of mosquito-borne diseases
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants as often as possible.
Apply mosquito repellents on skin.
Use nets on areas with no adequate screening for protection.
Get rid of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed.