Communicable Diseases
Zika Virus

​​Overview:

  • Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that is spread by the Aedes mosquito. 
  • Many people with Zika virus do not have symptoms; however, some may experience mild symptoms.
  • There is no Zika virus vaccine; however, there is treatment for its symptoms. 
  • It can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy, and may cause serious birth defects.
  • There is no vaccine to protect against it, but there are ways to avoid mosquito bites.

What is Zika virus? 
Zika virus is a viral infection that is often transmitted by the bites of a specific type of mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted from an infected person to another, even in the absence of symptoms.
 
Cause:
Zika virus is transmitted by bites of mosquitoes carrying the virus (Aedes mosquito). This type of mosquitos is most active during the day, especially in the middle of the morning and late in the afternoon.

Transmission:
  • Bites of mosquitoes carrying the virus;
  • From mother to fetus during pregnancy through the placenta;
  • Blood transfusion;
  • Sexual contact with an infected person.

Incubation ​Period:
The incubation period is the period between the time you are exposed to the virus and the time its symptoms start to appear. It ranges between 2 to 14 days.

Risk Factors:
  • Living in countries where there have been outbreaks of Zika virus.
  • Traveling to areas where cases were detected or where the Aedes mosquito lives.

Symptoms:
Many people with Zika virus have no symptoms, but some may have mild symptoms. The most common ones include: 
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain (usually hand and feet joints)
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Muscle pain

When to see a doctor?
  • If the person shows symptoms of Zika virus;
  • If the person visited areas with a high risk of infection, especially pregnant women.

Complications:
The fetus having serious birth defects, such as: 
  • Small head;
  • ​Guillain-Barré syndrome: it is a neurological disease that causes damage to the neuropathy and myelitis, causing muscle weakness and even paralysis in some cases. 

Diagnosis:
A person may be suspected to have Zika virus depending on his medical history or the symptoms he is showing if he lives in areas where there is an outbreak. However, Zika virus can only be diagnosed with laboratory tests, including: blood, urine, and semen tests.  

Treatment:
No specific antiviral treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus exists. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms with medications such as: Acetaminophen to relieve fever and joint pain, in addition to:
  • Getting sufficient rest;
  • Drinking lots of fluids;
  • Consulting a doctor before taking any medications; 
  • Seeking medical attention if symptoms worsen;
  • Pregnant women who live in areas where Zika virus infections are common, or who have symptoms of infection, should seek medical attention and undergo the necessary tests. 

Prevention:
There is no vaccine for Zika virus, but several vaccines are currently in clinical trials. Doctors recommend avoiding mosquito bites by adhering to the following tips: 
  • Wearing light-colored, long-sleeved garments that cover most parts of the body;
  • Using screens such as: Curtains, doors and windows;
  • Using insect repellents that contain Dimethyl toluamide (DEET), Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate (IR3535), or Icaridin, according to the instructions on the product;
  • Making sure children and pregnant women sleep under mosquito nets during the day and early hours of the evening;  
  • Ensuring travelers and people living in the affected areas take caution to avoid mosquito bites;
  • Ensuring safer sexual practices, such as: Using a condom when traveling to infected areas (3 months for men and 2 months for women). It is also recommended to refrain from sexual activity throughout pregnancy if the partner lives or travels to an area where the Zika virus is prevalent.

It is worth noting that mosquitoes breed in standing water around homes, schools, and workplaces. It is crucial to eliminate breeding sites by several means, including: 
  • Covering water storage containers;
  • Emptying flower pots from stagnant water;
  • Cleaning and getting rid of garbage and used tires;
  • Spraying insecticides to reduce mosquito pools and disease spread.

Myths & Truths:
  • Myth: It is not risky to take aspirin and other drugs without seeking a doctor’s advice.
    • Truth: Avoid taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, until dengue fever is excluded, to reduce risk of bleeding.
Clinical Education General Department
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