Zika virus is a potentially dangerous virus that is spread by the infected mosquito bites. The virus was discovered in Africa in the middle of the last century, but is currently active in the territory of South America. In most people, there are no negative effects after the infection, there can even be no symptoms in some, but it can be very dangerous for pregnant women, especially for unborn babies.
The virus is most similar to the infection of dengue and yellow fever, and the West Nile virus. Even though it was first discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda in early 1947, and has appeared only in some areas of Africa and Asia, it has not spread on the northern hemisphere until May 2015, when it was discovered in Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Zika virus is transmitted to humans through bites of an infected Aedes mosquito. It is the same species of the mosquito that transmits dengue and yellow fever. A mosquito becomes infected the moment he drinks the blood of a person having Zika virus and becomes contagious immediately. These mosquitoes usually bite during the day and are very aggressive.
The virus can be transmitted from mother to child in the following situations:
• During birth, if a mother is infected with the virus before giving birth.
• During pregnancy, when the virus is passed to fetus from a mother.
Breastfeeding does not pose a threat for transmitting the virus from mother to a child, so even those mothers who are positive for the virus are encouraged to breastfeed their babies.
There are also two confirmed cases of infection through blood transfusion and sexual contact.
The Infection does not have terrible symptoms, such as the ones of the Ebola virus. One out of 5 people infected by Zika virus develop some symptoms. Those symptoms include mild fever, sometimes rash, joint pain and redness in the eyes. The disease is generally mild and could take up to several days. Cases where health complications and required medical hospitalization appear are very rare. As with other viral diseases, it is necessary to drink enough fluids and simply wait until you get better. That’s why this virus is not considered a special threat to health, except when it comes to pregnant women, or the unborn babies.
Why is Zika virus dangerous for pregnant women? It is being transmitted from mother to an unborn child during pregnancy or during birth. The infection with this virus is associated with the development of an abnormally small head, as well as brain damage, in the newborn. Doctors still can’t figure out how the virus enters the placenta and damages the baby’s brain. The riskiest period for this damage to occur is the first quarter of pregnancy.
There are about 3 million children born in Brazil annually, of which 150 are born with microcephaly. But last year, there were 3, 500 babies born with this disorder, and all of their mothers recovered from the virus during pregnancy.
Here’s the list of the most affected countries by the virus, which are not recommended for pregnant women to travel to: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Surinam and Venezuela.
• Use mosquito repellants to keep the insects from biting you
• Wear clothes that cover most of your body
• Keep all your windows and doors closed
• Sleep under the mosquito nets
• Remove or cover containers where mosquitos can breed (buckets, old tires, flower pots)
• Place mosquito nets on doors and windows to stop mosquitos from entering in the house