The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever.
It was later shown to make the leap to humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Today, the outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period of Zika virus disease is not clear, but noted that it is likely to be a few days.
WHO also noted that the symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headaches.
These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.
It stated that during large outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2015 respectively, national health authorities reported potential neurological and auto-immune complications of Zika virus disease.
Furthermore, it said that recently Brazil’s local health authorities have observed an increase in Zika virus infections in the general public as well as an increase in babies born with microcephaly in northeast Brazil.
WHO also declared that agencies investigating the Zika outbreaks are finding an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly.
However, the organization said more investigation is needed before the relationship between microcephaly in babies and the Zika virus can be firmly established.
It noted that other potential causes are also being investigated.
The Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions.
This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile, and yellow fever.
The organization posited that mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection.
It said that prevention and control rely on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-colored) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets.
It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.
WHO listed the following as key facts about the Zika Virus disease:
Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema), and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.
Edited by Jesus Chan
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