Saturday, 30 January 2016

Zika virus infection: Another illness by the dengue mosquito

Zika virus infection: Another illness by the dengue mosquito
Dr KK Aggarwal

In view of the rapidly spreading Zika virus infection in the Americas, the WHO will convene an emergency meeting on Monday, 1st February, to determine if the Zika virus outbreak should be declared an international public health emergency. According to Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, the "level of alarm is extremely high as is the level of uncertainty." The rapidly spreading virus may infect as many as 3-4 million people within a year.

Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus disease in May 2015. Since then, the disease has spread to 24 other countries and territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean. As per CDC, limited outbreaks of Zika infections are expected in the US. The CDC has issued a travel alert for individuals traveling to areas and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women, especially, should especially avoid travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing because of a strong link between the virus and birth defects like microcephaly.

Women who have made such trips and develop Zika symptoms during or within 2 weeks of their travel should be tested for the virus. And, clinicians should report positive tests to the appropriate local or state health department. They should also schedule regular USGs to monitor fetal growth in Zika-positive pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, a flavivirus, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same mosquitoes which spread the dengue virus. The infection is generally a mild illness in adults, the most frequent symptoms are mild fever, skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The infection usually resolves by itself within 2-7 days. Only one in 5 individuals who catch the virus develops symptoms, which usually disappear within a week. However, in pregnant women, it may potentially cause premature birth, congenital defects and microcephaly. More than 1000 cases of microcephaly were reported among newborns born to Brazilian mothers with Zika virus infection as of December 2015. A possible link between the virus and Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome is also suspected.

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