Zika Virus – basic need to know facts

Zika virus threat is real and has been declared a “global public health emergency” by the World Health Organization. Four cases have been confirmed in the UK but the virus doesn`t naturally occur in our country.

The Zika virus is spread primarily to people through the bite of an Aedes species mosquito which luckily is not found in the UK. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache and the incubation period is likely to be from a few days to a week. It has been confirmed that there is also a sexual transmission of the virus so safe sex is advised for people who have traveled to areas where there is an active Zika transmission.

The illness is usually mild and does not require hospitalisation as the symptoms usualy last for several days to a week. For now there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus (the treatment consists of plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehidration, paracetamol).

The real Zika virus danger is for the pregnant women since it has been officially announced that there is now enough evidence to conclude that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects and has been linked to problems in infants, including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.

It is highly recommended especially for pregnant women to avoid traveling to any area where the Zika virus is spreading. By April the known areas with wide spreads are: The Caribbean, Central America, The Pacific Islands, South America, Mexico.

If you are in an area with a risk of virus infection you can protect yourself by preventing mosquito bites (wear long sleeved-shirts and long pants, stay in places with air conditioning and door/window screens, use insect repellents, stay away from mosquito breeding sites, like containers with standing water). Safe sex is also advised in order to avoid getting Zika through sex. Also if you traveled to an area with a risk of virus infection it is highly recommended to talk to a healthcare provider even if you don`t feel sick.