Last year Ebola ravaged Africa. This year the Zika virus has experts in a panic, especially after the high number of serious birth defects in South America suspected to be caused by the virus.
The Aedeas aegypti mosquito, transmitter of the Zika virus thrives in places with warm and humid climate, and currently it seems to be linked to the high cases connected to microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. The virus is also believed to be linked to the neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome. The World Health Organization (WHO) alert has placed Zika in the same category of concern as Ebola.
WHO director-general, Margaret Chan, has declared this virus an international public health emergency, saying, “A coordinated international response is needed to minimise the threat in affected countries, and to reduce the risk of further international spread.” Members of the committee agree that the situation meets the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern.
Dr Chan has advised pregnant women to consider delaying travel to areas affected by Zika, to seek advice from their physician if they are living in areas affected by the virus, and to also protect themselves against mosquito bites by using repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.
According to News24, the first case of transmission of the Zika virus through sexual transmission has been announced in Dallas County, Texas on Tuesday 2 February 2016. The symptoms of the virus in adults include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis lasting from several days to a week. The WHO strongly urges adults to take precautionary measures and to use protection when engaging in sexual activities.
Key Zika Facts from WHO:
- People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2 to 7 days.
- There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently.
- The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
- The Zika virus can also be transmitted sexually so it is important to take every precaution for safe sex.
- The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.