Colombia has already confirmed the first three victims taken by the Zika virus. The patients had contracted a seemingly related disease that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis.
The uproars regarding the Zika virus might have only started recently, but the virus had actually already been discovered back in the 1940s itself. The reason why it wasn’t a big deal till now is that there weren’t that many outbreaks of the disease, and very rarely affected us, humans.
However, after a massive outbreak in Brazil, in 2015, it finally came into the spotlight, and people sat up. The World Health Organization has already declared it a public health emergency on February 1 and has raised funding for research on the virus and has called for researchers to develop a vaccine and diagnostic testing for as soon as possible.
Here’s what we know so far about this scary disease:
The disease is usually spread through humans by a type of mosquito called Aedes aegypti or the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Although a case of it being spread sexually was reported, nothing definitive has been found yet, so the CDC is still looking into it.
There is currently no cure for it, but researchers are working towards finding one. Which will probably take a few years.
Symptoms are usually non-existent, making it even more difficult to diagnose. When symptoms do show, they are in the form of a low-grade fever, sore body, and headaches, as well as red eyes and a body rash. In even more rare cases, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea have also been reported, but these usually go away within a week.
However, and now comes the scary part, in the rarest of rare cases, some people infected with the Zika virus were later diagnosed with Guillain-Barré, a rare and sometimes deadly neurological condition. This disease makes people’s immune systems damage their nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis. The symptoms can last weeks, months, or even years.
Apart from this, evidence has surfaced that Zika is also linked to a terrible birth defect called microcephaly, which is characterized by a shrunken head and incomplete brain development in babies.
Since there aren’t any definitive cures yet, the best course of action is for us to try to prevent mosquitoes that carry the virus from biting us, by keeping our houses and surroundings clean, not letting stagnant water puddles to be formed, use insect repellants, and basically just try to not let mosquitoes breed in our localities. Pregnant women should get regular checkups including blood tests, foetal ultrasounds, and amniocentesis.
Keep safe, stay alert!
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