Zika virus transmission and symptoms

Zika virus, which is similar to dengue fever, is spread mostly through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquitos, usually Aedes aegypti.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), these mosquitoes typically bite during the day, with peaks during early morning and late afternoon or evening.

Besides being transmitted through mosquito bites, Zika virus can also be passed via sexual contact, blood transfusion or infected organ transplants.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

Many people infected with Zika virus usually don’t have symptoms or suffer only mild ones. These symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache.

After being exposed to it, symptoms of Zika usually appear between three to 14 days, according to the WHO. The symptoms generally last for two to seven days.

Those who get infected by Zika are not usually sick enough to be hospitalised and rarely die from the virus. They may also be protected from future infections if they’ve been infected once.

Who is at risk from Zika virus?

Zika infections in women during pregnancy are dangerous as they can lead to birth defects of the brain – such as microcephaly – in the baby. The virus is also linked to other problems like miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects.

WHO has also warned there are increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which affects the nervous system, in parts of the world affected by Zika.

How to prevent Zika virus

There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent against Zika. The best way to avoid infection is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

If you do get Zika, make sure you get plenty of rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration. In terms of medication, you can take medicines like acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.

The CDC advises against taking aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs until your doctor can rule out dengue fever to reduce the risk of bleeding, so if you’re taking these medicines for another health condition, consult your doctor.

If you have Zika, reduce the risk of passing it on by using condoms and dental dams or abstaining from sex until you have recovered.

You should also check the government website for Zika risk ratings of various countries before you travel.

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