Belonging to the Flaviviridae family, the Zika Virus was isolated in 1947 from a monkey. Zika forest is the name of a forest located in Uganda; hence the name ‘Zika’. In the past, the disease was mainly limited to the Asian and African continents and the most affected regions were located near the equator. However, with the passage of time, the disease has demonstrated an increasing tendency and has spread to other regions of the world. Zika virus disease has been linked to microcephaly among newborns. Zika virus disease has surfaced in South America and there is increasing evidence to suggest that the disease will spread to other regions of the United States as well.
Spread of Zika Virus
As far as the transmission of disease is concerned, it spreads through mosquito bite and Aedes aegypti mosquito is thought to be the vector that contributes to its spread. Spread through sexual contact has also been confirmed. Vertical transmission, i.e. the transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, can also take place.
Symptoms of the Zika virus infection include fever of low grade, flu-like symptoms, pain in joints, red eyes and rashes on skin. The symptoms of Zika virus disease are very similar to other viral diseases. For this reason, only an alert physician can detect the disease.
In order to confirm the diagnosis, serologic testing can be carried out. Isolation of virus, (PCR) can be used for diagnosis.
Like most other viral diseases, the Zika virus disease exhibits a peak and then declines. Although deaths are uncommon, Zika virus can be potentially dangerous. Since specific antivirals are not available, treatment is supportive in nature and directed towards managing troublesome symptoms only.
Prevention from Zika virus disease is directly related to prevention from mosquitos. The use of mosquito repellents and mosquito nets can enhance prevention. Moreover, pregnant women should be warned when travelling to Zika endemic areas. Sexual contact with infected individuals should be avoided.