Zika Virus: the latest on the Disease

The Zika virus actually gets its name from the Ugandan forest with the same name. It was first discovered in 1947. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. It causes mild symptoms such as fever, rashes, and joint pain. In some adults, it is known to cause a temporary form of paralysis.

The disease has reached pandemic proportions in Latin America and the Caribbean. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) of the United States has issued warnings against travelling to more than 40 countries. The disease is spread by mosquitoes belonging to the Aedes genus, the ones that are as well responsible for transmitting diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya. The WHO predicts almost 4 million people to be affected by the end of the year.Zika virus

The disease currently has no medicines or vaccines. World leaders and health organizations are alarmed mainly due to the birth defects caused by the virus. There are high chances of the virus passing on to an unborn child and causing defects such as small head size (microcephaly) and associated brain damage. According to resent researches, the disease is also transmitted via anal, oral, or vaginal sex. Pregnant women should use a condom or abstain from sex with men who have visited Zika virus affected areas recently to prevent the risk of infecting their unborn babies.

Scientists at the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) are already working on a vaccine that will use genetic information to arm people with the ability to fight the virus. Officials at the NIAID are hopeful that human trials will start by September this year. Vaccines always take years to develop. Since this vaccine is a DNA vaccine, scientists are confident that it will be developed quickly, and distribution might start as early as 2018.

In the meantime, precautions have to be taken to keep up the fight against the Zika virus. It is a silent infection which means that its symptoms may be very mild or absent and the person affected could be totally unaware. Diagnosis is accurate only for the first week after infection as detection at later stages can return false positives/negatives. There is also no widely available test for the virus.

 In order to get relief from the symptoms, adequate rest and water intake is advised. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as Tylenol (Paracetamol) can be taken to reduce pain and body temperature. Patients must avoid non-steroidal drugs such as Aspirin. It's also essential to keep your doctor informed about any other medications you may use at the time. 

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