Zika virus (ZIKV) dominated global public health concerns during 2016. Affecting over 60 countries, this primarily mosquito-borne disease has been associated with serious birth defects, including microcephaly, and complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
No treatment for Zika?
There are no vaccines for Zika, as scientists had long assumed that the virus was so benign that it wasn’t worth the resources required to investigate for treatment. Zika has not been widely examined, and while some early research showed that there is a connection between Zika and microcephaly(a severe neurological birth defect).
Even now, many people who get infected will never know it, and if they start showing signs of infection, such as a rash, red eyes, fever or joint pain, doctors have very little to offer other than advising them to stay hydrated or take Tylenol as needed. Zika might infect embryonic cells, which helps to form the brain!
2. Who is most at risk?
Pregnant women who live in or have traveled to Zika-infected regions are most vulnerable to serious complications from the virus: birth defects. Zika can also be transmitted through sex, though, which spreads the risk of infection to the bedroom. The access to effective birth control is of particular concern in Puerto Rico, where about two-thirds of all pregnancies are unplanned. “I am extremely concerned about sexual transmission,” says Brenda Rivera-García, the Puerto Rico department of health’s state epidemiologist.“If pregnancy is not in your plans, then make sure you use an effective method to reduce your risk of unintended pregnancy.”
How can one protect themselves?
The first thing is to Cover up and use bug spray. Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent Zika, and while that may seem obvious, it can take some work. If one is in an area with disease-spreading mosquitoes, they should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants no matter how warm it is. The mosquitoes are more infectious when the mercury rises.
You should also make sure windows have screens, and the air conditioner is on if you’re home during the day; the mosquitoes which spread Zika are day biters. And since a mosquito needs only a small size pool of water to lay as many as 200 eggs, you should remove any standing water around your home and clean any vessels you find. Because even after the water source has dried out, the eggs may remain dormant and survive for months, sometimes even up to a year, on the inside of a container.
Yet to discover
Doctors still do not understand how some pregnant women who are infected with Zika can give birth to babies with the microcephaly while others do not. They are yet to know at which point during the pregnancy, the risk of infection is greatest and how likely it is for babies born with the disease to survive longer than a year.
And when Zika definitely causes microcephaly, how the virus causes brain development remains unclear. Also unknown is what other brain problems the virus may cause. “