Zika virus infection in humans has been reported since the 1950s. It is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, identical to dengue. Only about one in five infections are symptomatic. Zika is generally a mild and self-limiting illness. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, muscle aches, headache, red eyes. Although rare, serious neurological complications have been reported. There is no vaccine or specific anti-viral drugs at this moment of post.
How is Zika virus spread?
The Zika virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the common species found locally). A mosquito is infected when it takes a blood meal from a Zika-infected person and later transmits the virus to other people it bites. (Reference from Ministry of Health).You can also get Zika through sex.
How do we prevent Zika virus from spreading?
Like dengue fever, to prevent the spread of the virus, we must first prevent the breeding of its vector, the Aedes mosquito. The Aedes mosquito is easily identifiable by the distinctive black and white stripes on its body. It prefers to breed in clean, stagnant water easily found in our homes. To prevent breeding of the Aedes mosquito, we need to frequently check and remove stagnant water in our homes.
Do the following steps to prevent breeding of the Aedes mosquitoes:
You are also advised to use insect repellents and dress your little ones and yourself up in long sleeves and long pants (preferably in light-coloured), cover yourselves up as much as possible. You can also choose to use Permethrin to treat clothing, and Permethrin-treated clothing will protect you after multiple washings. NOTE: Do NOT use Permethrin directly on skin.
You may also wish to use physical barriers such mesh screens or treated netting materials on doors and windows. Sleeping under mosquito nets day and night can also help.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms. Otherwise, they usually develop within 3 to 12 days after the mosquito bite and are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya.
- Joint pains, muscle pain, headache
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Symptoms often last between 4 to 7 days.
The symptoms of Zika virus infection are often very mild. In some cases, they may be mistaken for dengue. As such, travel history is important, and all returning travellers from areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission should inform their doctor and healthcare institutions about their travel history. Those living or working in the affected areas of concern should inform their doctors of the location of their residence and workplace.
What are the treatments for Zika virus?
There are currently no known vaccines or treatments for the Zika virus. Zika virus disease is usually mild and requires no specific treatment.
People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.
How is Zika diagnosed?
Currently, the only reliable test available for Zika is the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test which looks for genetic material of the virus in blood or urine. However, RT-PCR test is only able to detect Zika infection in blood within 5-7 days of onset of symptoms and in urine within 14 days of onset. Therefore, the time window in which a pregnant woman can be tested using RT-PCR is very short.
At present, there is no reliable serological test (which looks for antibodies in the blood) for Zika.
For pregnant women/mothers with Zika virus
*The below is extracted from Ministry of Health website.
If you are pregnant and your male partner is tested positive for Zika.
If you have had sexual intercourse with your partner, you should consult a doctor and inform him/her of possible exposure to Zika so that he/she can arrange for Zika testing.
If you are pregnant and asymptomatic, but worried about possible exposure to Zika.
WHO’s May 2016 guidelines do not recommend routine Zika testing for asymptomatic pregnant women. If you are concerned, you should discuss further with your doctor.
Should a woman who is pregnant get regular blood/ urine tests for Zika, to make sure that she is not infected?
No, unless she has symptoms of possible Zika Virus Infection (fever and rash and other symptoms such as red eyes or joint pain).
If you are pregnant and have recently visited a Zika affected area.
There is no need to see your doctor, if you are well. You should continue to take strict precautions against mosquito bites. If you have symptoms of possible Zika virus infection (fever and rash and other symptoms such as red eyes or joint pain), you should seek medical attention immediately, and consult your Obstetrics and Gynecology (O&G) doctor.
If I am pregnant and positive for Zika Virus Infection, will my baby have microcephaly?
Currently, even if a pregnant woman is confirmed to be infected with Zika virus, there is no test that will predict the future occurrence of microcephaly. We advise that you follow-up closely with your doctor.
Can microcephaly be picked up through pre-natal screening? If so, what options are available to pregnant women if it is detected?
Microcephaly may be picked up during pre-natal screening, such as through ultrasound of the fetus. However, not all cases may be picked up in the early stages of pregnancy (i.e. within the first trimester). Some may not be diagnosed until after late in the pregnancy or after the birth of the child. This is similar to other congenital conditions, such as Down Syndrome. Similarly, a small head measured on ultrasound does not necessarily confirm the diagnosis of microcephaly. A significant proportion of fetuses with small heads on ultrasound turn out to be neuro-developmentally normal.
If this condition is picked up through pre-natal screening, the parents should consult with their healthcare professional on their options.
Can mothers with Zika infection breastfeed their baby?
Zika virus has been detected in breast milk but there is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted to babies through breastfeeding.
*Above information is as of 30 August 2016. Please check your respective countries’ ministry of health sites for more up to date information.