The Zika (Zee-Kuh) virus is a mosquito-borne viral infection that mainly occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Several individuals infected with the Zika virus have no signs and symptoms, but few people report mild fever, muscle pain, and rash.
Zika virus during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage and can cause microcephaly. The infection may also cause other neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys, and 5 years later, it was identified in humans in Uganda and Tanzania. Since then, the outbreaks have been recorded in Africa, North and South Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
In Kenya, local researchers from the Ministry of Health, KMRI, JKIA, and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) reported in May 2019 that they had detected approximately 33 Zika incidents in West Pokot and 1 case in Turkana County, the first ever recorded in Kenya.
Approximately 4 out of 5 individuals infected with the Zika virus have no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they normally begin 2 to 7 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Mild fever
- Joint or muscle pain
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
Several people recover fully with symptoms resolving in approximately 2 weeks.
The Zika virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito that can be found throughout the world.
When a mosquito bites an individual infected with the Zika virus, the virus enters the mosquito. The infected mosquito infects its next victim when it bites him/her.
The virus can spread to the fetus during pregnancy. A few cases of spread through sexual contact and blood transfusion have also been reported.
You are at a higher risk of developing zika virus if you:
- Live or travel in countries where there have been outbreaks
- Have unprotected sex with an infected partner
Zika virus infection may be suspected based on the signs and symptoms of people living or visiting areas with Zika virus transmission and/or Aedes mosquito vectors.
A diagnosis of the infection can be confirmed by a lab test of blood or other body fluids such as semen or urine.
There is no cure for the zika virus infection or related diseases. The symptoms of this infection are mostly mild. Individuals with symptoms are advised to get plenty of rest, treat pain and fever with common medications, and drink fluids.
If symptoms get worse, seek medical care and advice.
Pregnant women living in areas with Zika transmission or who show symptoms of the infection need to seek medical attention for lab testing and other clinical care.
If not managed when the symptoms are mild, Zika virus may lead to a few COMPLICATIONS that include:
Zika virus infections during pregnancy may cause miscarriage and microcephaly.
It may also cause congenital Zika syndrome, which includes the following birth defects:
- Eye damage
- Severe microcephaly with a partly collapsed skull
- Joint problems including limited motion
- Brain damage and reduced brain tissue
- Reduced body movement because of too much muscle tone after birth
- Neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre
- Pregnant women are advised to avoid traveling to areas where there is an outbreak of the virus
- Abstain from sex or use a condom if you are pregnant and your partner lives in an area where there is an outbreak of the virus.
- Use protection during sexual contact to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the infection if you or your partner live in or traveled to an area where there is an outbreak
- If you travel to tropical regions, make sure you use mosquito repellent or net when you go to sleep, wear protective clothing, stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, and minimize mosquito habitat.