Only 20% of people affected by Zika virus show symptoms

In Spain, the number of adoptions of children from the Latin American continent is high. In the last 5 years, 767 children have been adopted mainly from Latin American countries such as: Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Dominican Republic. There is currently a risk of Zika virus transmission in these countries. Families who have to travel to these countries should know the symptoms of this disease and the measures to be taken into account for its prevention and treatment. The specialist in Pediatrics and member of Top Doctors, Dr. Oliván Gonzalvo, gives you all the details.

Zika virus transmission

Zika virus is an RNA virus of the genus Flavivirus that is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes breed in household containers holding water. They are aggressive daytime biters and feed both indoors and outdoors near dwellings. Humans are probably the main reservoirs of the virus, and anthroponotic (person-mosquito-person) transmission occurs during outbreaks.

Zika virus: prevention

There is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease. Prevention is based on avoiding mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other mosquito-borne viruses are found, take the following measures: cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats; avoid perfumes and light-colored clothing; stay in air-conditioned places; keep windows and doors closed or use screens/mosquito nets; sleep in places that are protected with mosquito nets; use insect repellents, applying them every few hours taking into account that they should not be sprayed on the skin under clothing and wear permethrin-treated clothing. It is important to empty, clean or cover tanks, containers or utensils outside the house that may accumulate water such as buckets, flower pots, bottles, containers or tires; thus eliminating mosquito breeding places.

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Zika virus: symptoms

The incubation period, the time from exposure to onset of symptoms, for Zika virus disease is a few days to a week. Of those infected, only 20% show clinical symptoms and the rest are asymptomatic. The most common symptoms are the sudden onset of low-grade fever, maculopapular rash, non-purulent conjunctivitis (red eyes), joint, muscle and headaches. The symptoms of Zika are similar to, but milder than, those of Dengue and Chikungunya, viral diseases transmitted by the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika. The illness is usually mild and lasts between two and seven days. Severe cases are rare and lethality is very low.

Most worrisome is the possible association between Zika virus and the increase in the number of children born with microcephaly or intracranial calcifications, in these cases Zika is congenital due to intrauterine transmission. The likelihood of these children manifesting neurosensory disorders during their development is high. This issue should be further investigated for confirmation and should be considered in Latin American children with microcephaly who are placed for international adoption in the future.

Zika virus: diagnosis

Preliminary diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms, locations and dates of the patient’s stay, and knowledge or suspicion of mosquito bites. Differential diagnosis should be made with several diseases with similar symptoms. Confirmatory diagnosis is made by laboratory tests detecting the virus or specific antibodies.

Zika virus: treatment

There is currently no specific antiviral treatment for Zika virus disease. Treatment is symptomatic and consists of rest, drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and using analgesics and antipyretics to relieve fever and pain. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided until Dengue has been ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding. People infected with Zika should protect themselves during the first week of illness from further exposure to mosquitoes to reduce the risk of transmission to others, as Zika virus can be found in the blood and is passed from an infected person to a healthy person through mosquito bites.