Kerala reports 19 Zika virus cases: Cause, symptoms, and treatment
Kerala has confirmed 19 cases of the Zika virus, triggering concerns for authorities and people there as well as neighboring states. Patients include a pregnant woman from Thiruvananthapuram and a 22-month-old baby. The Union Health Ministry has since rushed a six-member team to the southern state to monitor the situation. But what is Zika virus and how does it spread? We answer your queries.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is caused by the bite of the Aedes species of mosquitoes. The same species is also responsible for causing diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue fever, and Yellow Fever. Zika primarily spreads through mosquito bites, but can also be transmitted through unprotected sex as the virus has been detected in semen, vaginal fluids, saliva, and urine.
What are the symptoms?
Many people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms. Further, the symptoms of the disease are generally mild. They include fever, rash, headache, conjunctivitis (red eyes), malaise, and muscle and joint pain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
How severe is the infection?
Symptoms start showing within 3-14 days of exposure and usually last for 2-7 days. In most cases, people do not get sick enough to go to the hospital and deaths from the infection are very rare. However, pregnant women may transmit the disease to the fetus, leading to birth defects such as microcephaly - a condition where a baby's head is smaller than normal.
Is there a cure for the virus?
Currently, there is no cure or specific treatment for the Zika virus, though vaccines are being developed. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States has listed six different vaccines that are currently in development. They include a DNA-based vaccine, a purified inactivated vaccine, a live attenuated vaccine, and a purified inactivated shot, according to information posted on NIAID's website.
How can you treat Zika virus symptoms?
Since there is no specific cure, doctors focus on treating the symptoms of the infection. 1) Drink water and other fluids for rehydration. 2) Take medicines recommended by your doctor to reduce fever or pain. 3) Get plenty of rest. You can prevent catching the Zika virus infection only by avoiding mosquito bites, hence it is advisable to maintain sanitation and wear full-sleeve clothes.
When and where did the Zika virus emerge?
The Zika virus was first detected among monkeys in Uganda in 1947, and identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. The first notable outbreak occurred in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2007. In India, the first local outbreak was reported in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2017. Larger outbreaks took place in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Both the states reported over 100 cases.