What you need to know about Zika virus

Tuesday February 2 2016

A child suffering from microcephaly at Obras

A child suffering from microcephaly at Obras Socias Irma Dulce Hospital in Salvador, Brazil on January 28 , 2016. AFP PHOTO | CHRISTOPHE SIMON 

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On Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global public health emergency over Zika virus.

Here is a list of facts you need to know about the Zika virus:

What is Zika Virus?

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

The virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito that are mainly found in tropical regions. These are the same mosquitos that transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The Aedes aegypti are said to bite during the morning and afternoon (towards evening).


It was identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania.

Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been reported in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

There is currently an outbreak of the disease in the Americas. It has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America.

WHO has warned that it is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas.


Symptoms of the Zika virus disease include mild fever, headache, skin rash, muscle and joint pain, malaise, conjunctivitis and may last for two to seven days.

In Brazil, health authorities have reported babies being born with birth defects known as microcephaly— a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

WHO strongly suspects that this condition is caused by the Zika virus.

It is also believed to be linked to a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.


Zika virus disease is diagnosed through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and virus isolation from blood samples.


There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.

People sick with the Zika virus are advised to get plenty of rest. They should also take lots of fluids. Fever and pain can be treated with common medicine but patients are advised to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.


The best prevention is protection against mosquito bites. The best way is sleeping under mosquito nets and getting rid of mosquito breeding sites.

Source: WHO