- Zika is the name for a virus which causes a flu like illness.
- Zika is spread to people through mosquito bites.
- An outbreak of Zika virus infection started in Brazil in May 2015.
- The common symptoms of Zika virus are a fever, joint pains, a rash and conjunctivitis. Most people who have Zika virus get better within 1 week.
- Paracetamol can help ease the symptoms of fever and joint pains.
- In Brazil it has been noticed that there are more children being born with small heads (microcephaly). It is possible, but not proven, that Zika virus is linked to the problem of microcephaly.
What should I do? You should:
- Take paracetamol to relieve pain and a high temperature. See Analgesia – mild-to-moderate pain .
- Drink adequate fluids.
- Rest in bed if you feel tired.
- Stay off work or school. For most people, about 1 week will be adequate.
- If you are in an area which has mosquitoes then you should avoid further mosquito bites.
- Seek urgent medical attention if you develop shortness of breath, weakness of your muscles or if you are pregnant.
- You should not take ibuprofen or other non-steroidal medications until your doctor has ruled out dengue fever.
- Most people with Zika virus get better within 1 week.
What medication should I take?
- If you or your child have symptoms of Zika you can use paracetamol to help ease any symptoms of pain and high temperature. You can buy paracetamol from the supermarket or pharmacy. See Analgesia – mild-to-moderate pain .
- You should avoid taking ibuprofen or other non-steroidal medications until your doctor has ruled out dengue fever. The reason for this is that dengue fever can cause bleeding, this can be made worse by taking non-steroidal medications.
Do I need to see a doctor?
- Not necessarily. If you are not at high risk of complications from your Zika virus infection and can manage your symptoms yourself, it may not be necessary to see a doctor.
- If you are pregnant, have a poorly functioning immune system or are at high risk of complications, and/or your symptoms are severe, you should see a doctor.
What else could it be?
- Malaria – (in people with fever who have recently travelled to a malarial area).
- More rarely, dengue fever or chikungunya virus infections. These infections are common in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
Learn more: What is Zika virus infection?
- Zika is a flu like illness caused by the Zika virus.
- The Zika virus is spread to people by mosquito bites. The type of mosquito that spreads Zika is called Aedes. This same mosquito also causes other viral illnesses called Dengue and Chikungunya.
- Mosquitoes become infected when they bite someone who already has Zika.
- These infected mosquitoes can then spread Zika to other people by biting them.
- Zika can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
- Zika virus can also be spread by sexual intercourse. This is less common than Zika being spread by mosquito bites.
What makes me more likely to get Zika virus infection?
- Travel to areas of the world where Zika virus is common is the most likely reason to get a Zika virus infection.
- Anyone who lives or travels to these areas and who is bitten by a mosquito is at risk of the infection.
How do I know if I have Zika virus infection?
- Most people with Zika virus infection will have no symptoms at all. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will be unwell.
- For the people who are unwell, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not know that they have been infected.
- The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are a fever, a rash, joint pains, or conjunctivitis.
- Symptoms usually start between 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
What should I do if I have Zika virus infection?
- There is no medicine which cures Zika virus infections.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take paracetamol which will help reduce your fever and reduce your pain. See Analgesia – mild-to-moderate pain .
- Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
- Instead you should treat your symptoms:\r\n
- If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking additional medication.
What should I do if I am pregnant?
- There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, which might be linked to Zika virus infections.
- This is a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.
- Microcephaly can cause problems with brain development but the severity of the condition can be very variable.
- Zika virus infections also seem to cause other problems such as clubfoot.
- It is not clear if Zika virus is the only reason for these problems happening in pregnancy.
- Until the causes and risks are better understood it is recommended that special precautions are taken if you are pregnant.
- For women who are pregnant you should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus disease is active.
- If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
- For women who are trying to become pregnant, before you travel, you should talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
- You should also strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
What should I do if I am travelling to an infected area?
- When travelling to an area with Zika infected mosquitoes the best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid mosquito bites.
- Wear long-sleeved clothing and long trousers and dress your child in clothing which covers their arms and legs.
- Cover your child’s bed, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Sleep under a mosquito net.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, if possible.
- Use insect repellents.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- If you have a baby or child, do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.There are ways that you can help prevent mosquito bites. These are:
- Spray your clothing with permethrin, which is a chemical which kills mosquitoes.
- At present there is no vaccine against Zika virus infection.
What will the doctor/healthcare professional do?
- Your doctor will want to ask you questions about your symptoms, your recent travel and contact with mosquitoes from an infected area.
- Your doctor will want to examine you to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
- Your doctor might arrange for you to have a blood test to look for Zika or other similar viral diseases.
- Your doctor will provide you with advice about how to feel better.
- If you are pregnant your doctor might discuss your condition with a specialist (obstetrician) who may then arrange an ultrasound scan.
Which areas are most affected by Zika virus infection?
- The areas affected by mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus are changing week by week. You should seek the most up to date advice if you are pregnant and intending to travel.
- As of February 2015 the most affected areas are the Caribbean, Central America, Pacific Islands and South America.
- The countries affected are; American Samoa, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela and the US Virgin Islands.
What can happen with Zika virus infection?
- For most people a Zika virus infection will mean no symptoms or a mild flu like illness for up to a week.
- For a small number of people Zika virus infection can mean more serious problems with their health.
- There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, which might be linked to Zika virus infections. This is a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected. Zika virus infections also seem to cause other problems in pregnancy such as miscarriage. It is not clear if Zika virus infection is the only reason for these problems happening in pregnancy.
- There have also been reports of a serious condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome being linked to Zika virus infection.
- Guillain-Barre is a rate condition of the nerves which can happen as part of a viral illness, such as glandular fever. The symptoms of Guillain-Barre include muscle weakness and breathlessness. Most people will recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome but in a few cases the weakness has progressed over weeks to cause paralysis and then death.
- It is not clear if Zika virus infection has caused more cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
What practicalities do I need to consider with Zika virus infection? Time off work or school.
- People with Zika virus infection should stay off work or school. For most people, about 1 week will be adequate.
Contact with other people with Zika virus infection if you are at high risk of complications.
- If you are in a high risk group for complications of Zika virus and have come into close contact with another person with Zika virus infection (such as a person in the same household or care home as you) you should contact your doctor.
- It is known that Zika virus can be present in male semen. There have been two cases of Zika virus being spread by sexual intercourse.
- It is recommended that men who have lived in or travelled to an area with active Zika virus infection should avoid sex or use condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
How can I prevent Zika virus infection?
- Avoid travelling to Zika infected areas. If you are in a Zika infected areas take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Dr Gerry Morrow – Medical Director Clarity Informatics