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posted by The Bangkok Consultant

Zika Virus

How dangerous is the Zika virus?

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As you may know, the Zika virus has been spreading throughout the world, mostly in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and, most recently, in the Americas. Most of Southeast Asia (apart from Singapore) is not considered to have many outbreaks at this time. However, with Thailand's vast mosquito presence, it is likely outbreaks will continue to spread. Zika virus has been present in areas of Southeast Asia for many years, and several countries have reported sporadic cases or small outbreaks of Zika infections.

 

Many people infected with Zika won't have symptoms or will only show mild signs of infection, which allows the virus to spread undetected. Blood or urine tests can confirm Zika infection diagnosis, but there is no particular medicine to treat it. Symptoms last anywhere from two days to a week. They include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle and joint pain, headache and malaise. The Zika virus lasts a few weeks at most in the body, and does not cause chronic infection. The time might vary according to each particular case, but Zika infections tend to last between 7 and 21 days.

 

Since Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, it is important to protect yourself as much as possible, especially if you are pregnant. Infection with Zika during pregnancy is linked to congenital disabilities in babies, and there have been reports of severe defects of the brain called microcephaly in new-borns. It is strongly recommended that pregnant women delay travel to areas where Zika is spreading.

 

While not considered fatal, several countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks have reported increases in people developing Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). However, only a small proportion of individuals with a Zika infection get GBS.

 

The types of mosquitoes that spread the virus are aggressive daytime biters, but they have been known to bite at night. The mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are also responsible for the spread of Dengue Fever and other viruses, so it is important to be as vigilant as you can when protecting against bites. Be sure to dress children in clothing that covers their arms and legs, and try to cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito nets.

 

Returning travellers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites so protect your family, friends, neighbours and your community. If you have visited a country where Zika has been detected, make sure you take the same means to protect yourself from mosquito bites at home as you would while travelling. Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, use insect repellent and stay in places with air conditioning, or avoid places that don't use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

 

For more information on the Zika virus, and for the latest updates, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.

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