What is the Zika Virus? Zika virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus, causes mild illness in humans called Zika fever, or commonly known as Zika. Approximately 1 in 5 infected people develop illness.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of genus Aedes. Some of the species falling under Aedes are A. aegypti and A. africanus. It apparently originated from Africa and Asia where it was first detected. It later spread to the Pacific Ocean, and to South America and neighbouring regions.
It is spread from one person to another when a female Aedes mosquito feeds on a host, thus injecting the virus into his skin. The virus is able to get past the body defences and replicate in different types of skin immune cells, as was shown in a 2015 study.
The virus is related to dengue, and similar viruses.
As for vertebrate hosts, the virus occupies cells of humans and monkeys. It was first isolated from a rhesus macaque in the Zika Forest in Uganda back in 1947.
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Most cases do not constitute harm. However, some cases might involve severe disease whereby the patients need to be hospitalised. People dying from Zika are rare.
On the other hand, the virus might potentially be dangerous to pregnant women. It has been linked with microcephaly in the past few years. Microcephaly is the condition whereby babies are born with smaller heads. While no direct clear evidence has been found to confirm this theory, it is thought to be likely to cause this if it gets into pregnant women.
No vaccine exists up to now. Neither does any medicine (preventive or active). The disease is fought by fighting its vector, the mosquito. During outbreaks, people are advised to avoid mosquito bites. Zika patients are also asked to avoid bites from the insect for the first 7 days of experiencing sickness.
The trending advice nowadays is for women in countries affected by the outbreak to postpone pregnancy for later because of the microcephaly risk.