What is Zika Virus and How to Prevent It?

About Zika Virus

Zika Virus (ZIKV) causes the Zika fever; it is an arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus). Zika virus is a member of Flavivirus in the family Flaviviridae. It is connected to yellow fever, dengue, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile, viruses that are members of the virus family Flaviviridae.

A Brief History of Zika Virus

It first got its name Zika Virus in 1952, when a monkey developed a fever in the Zika Forest, Uganda. The virus was kept under isolation from humans until its first discovery in 2007 in Africa and Southeast Asia. There were many epidemics after 2007 in Micronesia, Yap Island, Easter Island, Cook Islands, Polynesia and Caledonia. The first outbreak outside Africa and Asia was in 2007, on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. With symptoms like rash, conjunctivitis and arthralgia initially it was suspected as Dengue, Chikunguniya and Ross River Viruses.

There was a recent and bigger outbreak outside Africa and Asia was in Brazil, April 2015. There were 500 patients affected were diagnosed with flu like symptoms, rash and arthralgia. The most affected areas were district of Camacari, Salvador city and capital of the state of Bahia. The local authorities linked the outbreak to increased foreign visitors for 2014 FIFA World Cup and the large population of Aedes aegypt and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

After April, 2015 there have been large outbreaks of Zika virus all over South and Central America and Caribbean. There was a level 2 travel alerts for people who were traveling to Zika virus affected areas. They also suggested that women who were planning a baby should consult their physicians before they could travel. Brazilian authorities reported more than 3500 microcephaly cases between October 2015 and January 2015. Many infants were severely affected and many died.

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Prevention from Zika Virus

Before you know how to take precautions from Zika Virus it is important that you know some facts about Zika Virus.

  • There are no vaccines to prevent the Zika Virus
  • You can prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites
  • Zika virus spreading mosquitoes bite mostly during the daytime
  • Zika spreading mosquitoes also spread Chikunguniya and Dengue viruses.

Precautions

  1. Prevent yourself from mosquito bites
  • Wear full long sleeved pants and shirts
  • Use mosquito nets while sleeping and screen your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Use EPA registered repellents to spray in your surroundings, use cream based repellents if required.
  • Treat clothes with premethrin but don’t use them on your skin.

 

  1. If you have Zika, take care not to make others sick
  • Zika can be spread while having sex, it is recommended that you use precautions like condoms from the beginning to the end; hence it is best that you avoid sex completely.
  • Expecting mothers should consult their doctors if their male partners have recently traveled to Zika affected areas, even if they do not show any symptoms.

 

  1. Precautions for a traveler
  • Remember to visit the CDC’s Travellers Health Website and check of the country you plan to visit has any health notices.
  • If you are returning from a Zika Virus affected area you need to prevent yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes for at least 3 weeks so that the virus doesn’t spread.

What are the scientists doing about Zika Virus?

Earlier this year, a team that was led by Purdue researchers identified the regions within the Zika Virus structure. With the help of a cryo-electron microscopy the team saw and found that the structure was similar to flavivirus. It has a RNA genome covered by a fatty membrane in an icosahedral protein shell. This research is important in effectively developing an antiviral treatments and vaccines.

The Director of Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease(PI4D) said that, “The structure of the virus provides a map that shows potential regions of the virus that could be targeted by a therapeutic treatment, used to create an effective vaccine or to improve our ability to diagnose and distinguish Zika infection from that of other related viruses,”

The race to develop the Zika vaccine is still on and research for an inactivated vaccine for women who might get pregnant is on the priority list of the researchers. There are 18 companies and agencies all over the world that are developing the vaccines, however no specific dates have been disclosed about when the vaccine would be available.

 

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