Zika Virus: What You Should know

Zika virus


What is Zika?

What is Zika

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms includes mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache and normally last for 2-7 days. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Links to other neurological complications are also being investigated. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency for Zika virus.

History of Zika

How Zika Spread
How Zika virus spread from Uganda in Africa. Source: Lancaster University.

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys through a network that monitored yellow fever. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. From the 1960s to 1980s, human infections were found across Africa and Asia, typically accompanied by mild illness. The first large outbreak of disease caused by Zika infection was reported from the Island of Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) in 2007. In July 2015 Brazil reported an association between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome. In October 2015 Brazil reported an association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly. Brazil has seen a surge in outbreaks of the fever since 2015. The country had seen an average of 150 babies a year born with microcephaly, but from October 2015 to January 2016 that number rocketed to over 3,500, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. There is no vaccine for the virus. For most of those infected, the virus causes a short illness lasting between two and seven days. However, in some rare cases, it can result in serious illness and death.

Some may show no symptoms, but some people may experience:
Pain areas: back of the eyes, joints, or muscles
Whole body: fatigue, fever, chills, loss of appetite, or sweating
Also common: eye redness, headache, skin rash, or vomiting
Zika birth defects

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems. Several countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks recently have reported increases in people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Research suggests that GBS is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS.

How Zika Spreads


How Zika Spreads
The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. The spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

There is currently no vaccine available. Zika virus disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.

Zika Treatment


The best way is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Use mosquito repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
  • Remove standing water around your home.