Due to the rapid spread of the Zika virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency. The Zika virus infection, which has been known since 1947, is transmitted by mosquitoes. This viral disease first appeared in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Recently, more and more people in Central and especially South American countries have been infected by the pathogen.
Zika virus infection
The virus was first discovered in a monkey near the Ugandan capital Kampala. It got its name from the name of a forest area near Kampala. According to the WHO, the disease was first diagnosed in a human in 1968. The Zika virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family. The viral infection is transmitted by mosquitoes. For meanings of rapunzel syndrome, please visit polyhobbies.com.
These include the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus and the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. There is a suspicion that there is also a possibility of infection from person to person, for example through sexual intercourse. So far, however, there is no scientific evidence for this. The consequences of the viral disease are harmless in large numbers. If symptoms and signs are noticeable at all, they are similar to those of a mild flu.
In individual cases, however, there is a suspicion of serious damage caused by the virus in newborns. Without scientific evidence, experts already believe it is highly likely that the Zika virus causes fetal head deformities. The disease cannot yet be cured with medication. It is only possible to alleviate the symptoms that occur. A vaccine is not available.
The reason for the frequency of virus transmission and the extremely rapid spread over large areas is the large number and survivability of the mosquito species. The ease of transmission also plays a role here. When biting people who are already infected with the Zika virus, the mosquitoes absorb the virus and can thus spread the pathogen further.
In addition, the eggs of the yellow fever mosquito are particularly resistant. Eggs laid in means of transport such as airplanes, ships or trucks can survive for a long time even with small amounts of liquid. It is significant that the diseases only occur on a massive scale in areas where mosquitoes are also widespread. Diseases with the Zika virus have already been detected in 21 countries in North, South and Central America.
Brazil and Colombia as well as many Caribbean countries are particularly affected. For Brazil, the host country of the next Summer Olympics in 2017, the disease is forecast to increase to 1.5 million people. One thing in particular is of great concern: the Zika virus is also considered to be the cause of an increasing number of diseases in newborns with irreparable and, in exceptional cases, even fatal effects. In Polynesia, the Zika virus was also suspected of being the cause of some cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (nerve disease), which has not yet been proven.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
If the viral disease makes itself felt in an infected person, which is not always the case, symptoms like those of a mild flu appear. These include a slight fever, headache and skin rash with reddening and itching. In individual cases, however, more dangerous developments can also occur via the transmission route through pregnant women.
In fetuses and newborns, severe changes can occur in the head area. In Brazil, 3893 cases of microcephaly (malformation caused by a significantly reduced skull circumference) were recently registered. In the previous year, only 147 cases of this particular disease were found in Brazil. Of the almost 4000 new cases, 50 affected children have already died with a causal connection to the malformation.
In addition, severe mental disabilities have occurred in numerous cases as a result of Zika virus infection. Guillain-Barré syndrome, which appeared in Polynesia at the same time as the viral disease, has not yet occurred in other countries affected by the Zika virus. Nevertheless, without previous laboratory results, scientists and physicians consider it possible that there may be a connection with the Zika virus.
The symptoms of the disease of the nerve tracts are predominantly paralysis and sensory disturbances. In severe cases, problems with breathing or heart function can also occur.
Diagnosis & course of disease
Due to the Zika virus infection often not being noticed by the person concerned, in many cases no examination is carried out. When the flu-like symptoms occur, a medical examination is often also dispensed with. This is due to the less severe symptoms and the short duration of the disease.
As a rule, the impairments such as a slight fever or headache and body aches are no longer present after just a few days. Zika virus infection can only be reliably determined by means of a blood test. The course of the disease in microcephaly shows mental and physical development disorders. In exceptional cases, however, unimpaired development is possible despite the insufficient head circumference. The malformation can be detected for the first time by ultrasound during pregnancy. Computed tomography is used to confirm the findings.
In the worst case, the Zika virus infection can lead to the death of the affected person and must therefore always be treated. If left untreated, it can also lead to long-term complications and symptoms that can no longer be treated easily. Those affected primarily suffer from high fever and headaches, sometimes a skin rash appears.
This is associated with redness or itching and also has a negative effect on the aesthetics of the person concerned. If the affected person is pregnant and develops a Zika virus infection, the child may have deformities or other disabilities. In the worst case, it can also lead to a stillbirth. The parents and relatives also suffer from severe psychological problems and therefore need psychological treatment to avoid depression.
As the Zika virus infection progresses, those affected often also suffer from sensory disturbances or paralysis. The heart function or breathing can also be negatively affected by the disease. Treatment for Zika virus infection is usually symptomatic and can limit most symptoms. Special complications usually do not arise.
When should you go to the doctor?
Before a stay abroad, the person concerned should inform themselves in detail about the health conditions of their travel destination. Local risk factors in particular are to be found out. In many cases, the Foreign Office or tour operators will help answer questions about local illnesses and the possibilities of medical care. This process can be done without the cooperation of a doctor. If the travel destination is in a region where there is a risk of contracting various diseases, you should discuss with a doctor the extent to which precautions can be taken. In many cases, vaccinations or other medical preparations help to provide adequate protection.
If the person concerned suffers from health impairments at his travel destination, it is generally advisable to consult a doctor. Pregnant women in particular should initiate a check-up visit with a doctor at the first irregularities. If an insect bites you and causes symptoms such as fever, headaches or changes in the appearance of your skin, there is cause for concern. Disorders of perception, numbness on the skin or sensory disturbances should be presented to a doctor. If you get a rash or discoloration of your skin, you should also see a doctor. An increase in health impairments must be examined and treated as quickly as possible. Without medical attention, Zika virus infection can be fatal.
Treatment & Therapy
It is currently not possible to cure Zika disease with special medication. The symptoms that occur are treated as part of an illness caused by the Zika virus according to the symptoms. In the case of painful side effects, effective painkillers can be taken. In the case of visible skin defects, soothing, disinfecting rubs on the affected areas help. If necessary, this can also be an antipruritic drug.
Fever causes the body to lose a lot of fluid, especially in warmer areas. Therefore, in order to avoid a weakening of the state of health, it is advisable to refrain from major efforts. Bed rest and increased fluid intake are beneficial in this case. Therapy for malformations of the head can be necessary for the psychological stability of both the child and the mother.
In addition, therapies to treat physical problems such as mobility or strength deficits are conceivable. In the rare case of concomitant disease with Guillain-Barré syndrome, there is a need for treatment. The disease of the nerve tracts can lead to muscle weaknesses ascending from the legs. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to complete paralysis of the limbs.
In extreme cases, it is even possible that the symptoms of paralysis affect breathing in a dangerous way. The disease, which can be painful, can also trigger cardiac arrhythmia. In the case of respiratory or cardiac impairment, emergency medical measures must be initiated immediately.
A preventive vaccination against the Zika virus is currently not possible. Therefore, preventive measures must focus on protection against mosquitoes as vectors. This includes wearing body-covering clothing. Technical aids such as mosquito nets are also advantageous.
Appropriate mosquito repellents in the form of lotions, creams or sprays can also be helpful. Comprehensive protection is not possible, especially for beach holidaymakers in the areas most at risk. Another problem is that the yellow fever mosquitoes in particular are not only attracted to bodies of water, but also to sweet drinks and food.
Zika virus infection is usually mild and non-recurring. Aftercare focuses on clarifying the typical symptoms of fever and treating them as necessary. The patient must be informed about the symptoms of possible secondary diseases so that he can consult a doctor at an early stage in the event of complications.
As part of the follow-up care, the cause of the Zika virus infection must also be determined in order to avoid reinfection. The doctor can give tips on how to avoid contact with the pests and what to do in case of re-infection. If the course is chronic, follow-up care for a Zika virus infection can last for months or even years.
Long-term treatment may be necessary, with affected patients primarily requiring drug therapy. Painkillers and antibiotics must be dosed precisely and adapted to the respective symptoms of the Zika virus infection. For pregnant women who suffer from a Zika virus infection, a follow-up consultation is important, in which the possible consequences of the disease for the unborn child are pointed out. If necessary, the patient can then be given further contact points and tips.
You can do that yourself
So far, Zika virus infection can only be treated symptomatically. The most important self-help measure is physical protection. Painkillers may be taken. It is important to carefully monitor the symptoms and note any abnormalities in a complaints diary.
If the fever gets worse or another health problem occurs, a visit to the family doctor is recommended. Sufficient sleep and a suitable diet are important. Affected people should also drink enough water and limit contact with other people. The illness should be cured after a few days. The doctor can clarify the symptoms and give further tips.
Since the Zika virus infection is a typical infectious disease, there are various tried and tested countermeasures such as warm pads, moderate exercise and avoiding stress. Fever should be measured several times a day and body temperature noted. In the event of any abnormalities, medical advice is required. In addition, sufferers must inform themselves independently about the various symptoms. Sick pregnant women and women who want to have children are at risk of miscarriage. You should talk to your gynecologist and get rid of the infectious disease quickly.