In recent years the previously little-known Zika virus has been grabbing headlines, and was even declared to be a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). Odds are you’ve heard of the Zika virus at least in passing – but do you really understand the threat that it poses?
Symptoms and Risks
Contrary to what you may have imagined, most people who are infected with Zika virus exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. In the cases where symptoms are exhibited they tend to be general and mild – consisting of fever, rashes, joint and muscle aches, headaches or conjunctivitis.
Generally Zika virus is not fatal – especially not in healthy adults. Only one in five people actually develop any symptoms, and even those rarely last any more than a week and tend to not be serious enough to warrant a hospital visit.
The threat of Zika virus and the reason why it has gained such widespread attention however is because of its link to microcephaly. Essentially microcephaly is a birth defect that affects the brain, and can lead to a host of other problems including developmental issues, hearing loss, intellectual problems, seizures, vision and balance problems, and much more.
In short Zika virus presents a major risk to pregnant women, as the virus can pass on from an infected mother to her unborn child and result in microcephaly or other birth defects.
How to Prevent Zika
The best way to prevent the threat of Zika to unborn children is to reduce the risk of infection. Generally the two main ways in which pregnant women are infected are either directly via the bite of an infected mosquito, or due to sexual transmission after intercourse with an infected partner.
For couples the most effective way to prevent Zika is for both parties to take measures to avoid infection from mosquitos. That includes:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce the amount of skin potentially exposed to mosquitos.
- Prevent mosquitos entering the home by using netting or screens.
- Have Zika prevention carried out to control the mosquito population via barrier sprays and other methods.
- Use insect repellents to reduce the mosquito population in and around your home.
- Avoid traveling to areas that are known to have outbreaks of the Zika virus.
For healthy adults, the risk presented by the Zika virus is minimal and at most will require a few days of rest and perhaps a bit of medication. However the risk to unborn children means that anyone who is pregnant should take the threat seriously and follow these measures to ensure that they do not end up being infected. In case of a possible infection, visiting a doctor immediately is best.