Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and it is named after the Zika forest in Uganda. The first human cases of Zika were detected in 1952 and since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in Southeast Asia, tropical Africa, and the Pacific Islands. Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes species. The virus can be passed through sex with an infected man as well as from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
The most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
If the condition is mild, its symptoms usually last for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People don’t usually get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they rarely die of Zika. This is also the reason why many people do not realize they have been infected.
Zika and Pregnancy
When a pregnant woman gets infected during pregnancy, it can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, and other severe fetal brain defects. Microcephaly is a serious birth defect that signifies that the baby is born with a smaller brain. This can result in impaired development and other medical problems. Other possible causes of microcephaly include:
- Changes in genes
- A woman being close to / touching toxins during pregnancy
- Certain infections during pregnancy
In addition to microcephaly, there were other problems that have been detected among infants and fetuses infected with Zika virus before birth such as:
- Hearing loss
- Eye defects
- Impaired growth
Guidelines for Pregnant Women
- If you (or your partner) are pregnant, it is essential that you avoid traveling to any areas with Zika. Make it a point to check CDC travel guidance by clicking on this link: cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.
- Pregnant women should be responsible for preventing mosquito bites. This can be done by covering up their arms and legs as well as using EPA-registered insect repellent – these are the safe ones to use during pregnancy.
- The use of latex condoms (the proper way) every time or not choosing to have any type of sex if the male partner has been in an area with Zika during the pregnancy is a must.
As of now, there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. It is best to secure all necessary precautions to avoid being infected during pregnancy. It is always better to be safe than sorry!