Zika virus: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

In recent weeks the news about a virus popularly known by the name of Zika virus (or Zika virus, ZIKAV or ZIKV) has begun to appear in most of the media of virtually the entire world, causing alarm and alert in the population to become an emerging virus in the large number of cases that for some time have been recorded in different countries, even causing the emergency committee of the WHO (World Health Organization) to meet urgently in order to treat all the information collected so far.

It is true that we are faced with a virus unknown to date for the majority of the population, but on which there has been evidence for decades. In fact, the virus was first identified in the year 1947 in Uganda, specifically in the forests of Zika, discovered in a Rhesus monkey when a study was carried out on the transmission of yellow fever in the jungle.

Already in 2007 caused a great outbreak on the island of Yap and other islands near the different Federated States of Micronesia, located north of Australia, affecting 8,187 people. While between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 there was a new outbreak in French Polynesia where 8,264 cases were registered.

However, it was not until a few months ago that more accurate and alarming news about this infectious disease began to be heard, mainly due to the fact that in February 2015 different Brazilian authorities began to investigate an outbreak of skin rashes. that at that time affected six states located in the northwest region of Brazil.

A short time later it has already affected 20 countries according to data provided by the Pan American Organization, among which are: Brazil, Bolivia, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, French Guiana, Honduras, Haiti, Martinique, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Venezuela and the Island of San Martin.

What is the Zika Virus?

With this name a virus belonging to the genus is known Flavivirus which it is transmitted by the bite of mosquito vectors of the genre Aedes, very frequent in both tropical and subtropical areas and that in turn transmit other diseases such as, for example, yellow fever, dengue or chikungunya. That is, it is transmitted by the same mosquito that causes dengue, the mosquito Aedes aegypti. The Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito and its name comes from the forests where the first case was recorded in 1947.

Therefore, it is a viral condition also related to other similar or similar diseases, such as West Nile fever or yellow fever, which in turn are similarly transmitted by other mosquitoes belonging to the same genus.

In humans the bite of these mosquitoes causes the one known as Zika virus, which is also known by the names of Zika disease or Zika fever.

As we indicated briefly at the beginning of this note, cases have been known since the 1950s, although it was originally identified for the first time in 1947, when a group of scientists was investigating the transmission of yellow fever in the forests of Zika (Uganda). Jungle. At that time the first case was discovered in a Rhesus monkey.

How is it transmitted?

The Zika virus is caused and transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. However, cases have been identified where the virus is transmitted sexually, since it tends to remain in the man's sperm for a long time, perinatally (that is, from the mother to the fetus) and also via the blood. Yes, it is not transmitted by breastfeeding.

The incubation time ranges from 3 to 12 days approximately.

Symptoms of the Zika Virus

The main concern of the health authorities come from the hand that, in reality, the vast majority of people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms. In fact, after the incubation period of the virus two things can happen: that the symptoms appear or that the infection is asymptomatic, which translates into no clinical manifestations, making their diagnosis much more complicated and difficult .

When the symptoms appear, they tend to last between 4 and 7 days, and the following clinical manifestations appear:

  • Red spots on the skin (rashes). They usually start in the face until they spread all over the body.
  • Intermittent fever less than 39ºC.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Inflammation especially in hands and feet.

There are also less frequent symptoms, such as:

  • Edema (inflammation) in hands and feet.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Sore throat.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.

Which is the treatment?

Until now there is no medical treatment for the disease. As with the Ebola, only symptoms tend to be treated, which can be controlled with the administration of paracetamol or dipyrone in order to treat fever and pain (be it muscular, joint, head, throat or abdominal). For now there is no treatment or vaccine against the Zika virus.

Anti-histamine drugs may be useful in the case of pruritic rashes on the skin, while on the other hand it is not advisable to use anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetylsalicylic acid, given the increased risk of them occurring. hemorrhagic complications.

Zika virus and the risk of it producing microcephaly in babies of infected mothers

Although up to now there was no real record, there seems to be a obvious relationship between the Zika virus and microcephaly. This evidence was found after a study that could detect the presence of the virus in blood samples collected from a baby that in Ceará was born with microcephaly, and that eventually ended up dying.

Moreover, the Brazilian Ministry of Health itself has confirmed the relationship between the two diseases after an alarming incidence of microcephaly in some states of the country at the end of last year 2015, which in turn caused an increase in the number of cases of the virus.

Article constantly updated. Last update 02/03/2016. This article is published for informational purposes only. It can not and should not replace the consultation with a Physician. We advise you to consult your Trusted Doctor. ThemesInfections

What is the Zika Virus (December 2021)