5 things you need to know about 'latest health scare' Zika virus

MANILA, Philippines – Deemed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Zika virus is the world’s latest health scare. Resembling a light case of flu, Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that usually lasts less than a week. Although it causes mild illness that most people often don’t recognize, it is now suspected to cause unusual birth defect, neurological problems and other health issues.

Zika virus
The same kind of mosquito that carries dengue and chikungunya viruses carries Zika virus. PHOTO CREDIT: Facebook/National Institutes of Health

This rare tropical disease is spreading in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Here are some facts you need to know about the virus:

1. It is named after a forest in Uganda

The name Zika comes from the name of a forest in Uganda where a monkey infected by the virus was first discovered in 1947. Although it is native to tropical Africa, with outbreaks in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, it emerged in Brazil last year and is already present in 21 out of 55 countries and territories across the Americas.

2. The same kind of mosquito that carries dengue and chikungunya viruses carries Zika virus.

Zika virus is transmitted through the bites of Aedes aegypti mosquito, a type of mosquito that carries other tropical diseases such as dengue, yellow and chikungunya. It is not established if it is passed from person to person yet investigators are looking at the possibility that it can be transferred via sexual intercourse.

3. Most infected people don’t get sick.

According to experts, most people infected with Zika virus don’t get sick. However, some infected people show symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes, which are common symptoms of mild flu.

4. Zika infection has been linked to microcephaly.

In October last year, Brazilian health officials observed a rise in cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect in which a newborn’s head is smaller than normal and the brain may not have properly developed, in tandem with outbreak of the virus. There are many causes of microcephaly so its link with Zika is still being investigated. Guillain-Barre, a nerve condition that can cause paralysis has also been linked to Zika virus.

5. You can protect yourself from Zika virus.

There is no vaccine or medication that will prevent or treat the virus but people can protect themselves by using insect repellents and wearing protective clothing like long sleeves and long pants. Authorities are also urging couples not to get pregnant.

DOH ready for Zika virus

Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, spokesperson for the Department of Health, has announced that measures against the disease are already in place in the country.

According to Dr Lee Suy, the same measures used to control dengue and chikungunya will be used to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne virus.

He said: ”We actually documented one case in 2012 and we haven't seen any further case after that. But just the same, since it's the same mosquito transmitting dengue and chikungunya, any measure against dengue and chikungunya will be the same control or measure against the Zika virus.”

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also disclosed that it is very rare for a patient to develop or eventually develop a critical form of Zika infection.

– Mini, The Summit Express

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