With the World Health Organization recently declaring Zika virus to be a public health emergency of a global level, India needs to be extra careful since it is the same mosquito that is known to spread dengue and chicken guinea. The virus has infected 2,500 people in Brazil last year. Experts say that it will not be long before it reaches our country.
“Zika virus causes Zika Disease and the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito spreads the virus to other people by its bite. Symptoms are very similar to viral illnesses including fever, joint pains, rash and conjunctival suffusion. The symptoms could present roughly about a week post being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, since currently there is no treatment for Zika, it is important that one takes all the necessary precaution to stay safe,” said Dr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant – Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru.
Since there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, the best way to prevent disease is to protect oneself from mosquito bites. They include:
- To wear shirts with long sleeves and long pants.
- Staying in air-conditioned rooms, rooms that have window and door screens to prevent mosquito entry would be useful.
- Insect repellents can prevent mosquito bites.
- To sleep under mosquito nets in case one is not able to use insect repellents.
- Pregnant women (any trimester) – should avoid traveling to areas with on-going Zika virus transmission, as it can lead to congenital defects like microencephaly / poor pregnancy outcomes. Postpone your trip if possible. If contemplating travel, pregnant women must seek advice from their health care provider.
It is crucial to protect young ones/babies from the virus. As parents you can take the following preventive measures:
- Avoid use of insect repellents on babies younger than two months of age.
- Dress children in clothing that cover arms and legs.
- Cover the baby carrier/crib with mosquito netting.
- For older children, spray insect repellent onto one’s hands and then apply to child’s face.
If you are already infected by the Zika virus, adequate rest, hydration and supportive care are the best ways to get through the disease. One can take the following measures:
- Symptomatic treatment in form of rest, fluids and anti-pyretic agents.
- Protect others: First week of infection finds Zika virus in the blood and its transmission occurs from person to person through the bites of infected mosquitoes. It may be reasonable to protect oneself from mosquito bites during the first week of illness so that other people do not fall sick.