Symptoms and Detection
The incubation period of this viral disease is not clear, but experts believe that it might be a few days. Its symptoms are similar to other infections, such as dengue, and usually last for 2 to 7 days.
According to the WHO, common signs and symptoms include mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis (red eye), muscle and joint pain, malaise and headaches. The symptoms are not chronic and rarely cause death.
However, about 80 percent of people who become infected with this virus do not show any symptoms.
To detect Zika, a blood or tissue sample must be sent to an advanced laboratory. The virus can be detected through sophisticated molecular testing.
Risk to Unborn Children
There is growing evidence that the Zika virus, when contracted during pregnancy, is linked to the birth defect microcephaly (characterized by abnormal smallness of the head).
Microcephaly can lead to mental retardation, as well as delays in speech, movement and growth in newborn babies.
Prevention and Control
As vaccination and proper treatment options are not available, it is essential to control the spread of the Zika virus. Some basic preventive measures include:
Stay away from mosquitoes and their breeding sites.
Wear clothes that thoroughly cover your body, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Wear light-colored clothing, as dark colors attract mosquitoes.
Young children, the sick or elderly should remain indoors to avoid mosquito bites, especially during the daytime.
Keep your home and surrounding area clean to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Empty or cover containers that can hold water. Discard unneeded items that collect rain or run-off water, like old tires.
Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible.
Do not go to a swimming pool, as it can be a breeding site for mosquitoes.
When travelling to Zika-infected areas, take all precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
If travelling with a baby or child, keep them dressed properly and use a crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
Stay in hotels or other places that have air conditioning, as mosquitos cannot survive in a cool atmosphere. If there is no air conditioning, opt for rooms with window and door screens.
If staying outdoors, sleep under a mosquito bed net. For further protection, stay under a netting even during the daytime as much as possible.
Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are more active in the daytime than nighttime.
Use insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and use as directed. However, never use these products on babies younger than 2 months of age.
Women who are pregnant or planning to conceive should avoid travelling to Zika-infected areas, and if required to travel, consult your healthcare provider first.