Travel Alert Brazil 2016: Zika Virus - What is it?
By Frans van Hees | www.AboutBrasil.com | Week 5, January 2016
Rio de Janeiro — Currently zika virus is spreading in South America.
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoesof the Aedes family. These mosquitoes are found mainly in tropical countries, for example in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947.
Brazil takes Zika Virus seriously: thorough fumigation of the Sambadrome, Rio de Janeiro
For most people zika virus is quite mild. Unfortunately, for
pregnant women and their unborn childit might be a different story.
You can recognise a zika virus infection by various symptoms. These
symptoms are similar to other infectious diseases, such as dengueand chikungunya.
The complaints will occur about three to twelve days after a bite from an infected mosquito.
One in four people actually have symptoms. You can recognize zika virus to the following symptoms:
- Acute fever
- Headache, also behind the eyes
- Joint and muscle pain, especially in the hands and feet
- Abdominal pain, sometimes accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea
- Rash, often begins in the face and then spreads further out over the rest of the body
- Decreased appetite
- Edema (fluid retention) in the arms, legs, hands and feet
The symptoms of dengue, chikungunya and zika are very similar. Therefore, it is equally difficult to make the right diagnosis. Usually, with the diagnosis of zika virus, dengue and chikungunya were first excluded. You recover within about two to seven days of the infection.
There is (as yet) no vaccine or other treatment to cure zika virus. The treatment currently consists of the control of symptoms. As painkiller only paracetamol should be used, as aspirin and NSAIDs could cause bleedings in case of a co-infection with dengue.
As mentioned earlier, the disease is relatively mild, so in general you can just travel to countries where there is a zika virus outbreak. However, there are indications that
zika virus during pregnancy is harmful to the unborn child. This is because the mother can transmit the virus through the placenta to her unborn baby.
Currently it is not yet certain, but
zika virus possibly causes congenital brain abnormalities(such as microcephaly). The risks to the unborn child are probably greatest for infection during the first three months (first trimester), but this has not been sufficiently studied.
For pregnant women themselves the infection is more intense than usual. The symptoms are often more severe than for people who are not pregnant. Because of the complications of an unborn child, pregnant women are advised not to travel to countries that currently suffer from zika virus, like Brazil. Also, it is not recommended for women who want to get pregnant to go on such a trip.
If you come to Brazil or other Zika troubled countries, undertake than anti-mosquito measures with these tips:
- Wear protective clothing
- Cover your exposed skin with an anti-insect product containing DEET (Diethyltoluamide)
- Sleep in a mosquito-free room or under a (impregnated) mosquito net
These measures are especially important for:
- Pregnant women
- People with an immune disorder
- People with chronic illness