Zika virus is a virus transmitted by daytime-active mosquitoes. Zika is spread by mosquitoes, not from person to person. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.
Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
The name Zika comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947.
The infections, known as Zika fever, often causes no or only mild symptoms. Since the 1950s it has been known to happen within Africa and Asia. In 2014, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then to Easter Island and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, where the Zika outbreak has reached pandemic levels.
Zika virus is related to dengue and yellow fever. The illness it causes is similar to a mild form of dengue fever, is treated by rest, and cannot yet be prevented by drugs or vaccines.
Symptoms of the Zika virus
- About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill.
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.
- The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
- People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
- Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found longer in some people.
- There is a link between Zika fever and microcephaly in newborn babies by mother-to-child transmission. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.
The story of Daniele Ferreira dos Santos and her baby Juan
Around the fifth month of her pregnancy, Daniele Ferreira dos Santos fell ill with a high fever and angry red splotches on her skin. She soon recovered. But weeks later, when she went to the hospital for a prenatal exam, the news was horrific: The baby she was carrying likely had a severe brain injury.
When Juan Pedro Campos dos Santos came into the world in December, the circumference of his head was just ten inches, about 20 per cent smaller than normal.
Ms Santos was never diagnosed with Zika, but she blames the virus for her son's defect and for the terrible toll it has taken on her life. Living in Recife in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, she is at the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, and Pedro is among 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly that may be connected to the virus, although no link has yet been proven.
A man wearing protective clothing sprays grave stones with a fumigation machine. Health workers carry out fumigation as part of preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.