Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquitoe , the same insect that spreads dengue and Chikungunyga which are viral haemorrhagic fevers . The virus was first isolated the Zika forest of Uganda. About one in five persons exposed to the virus will become ill . Though the virus can be isolated in semen evidence of sexual transmission was lacking until the first suspected case was reported in the US. This happened came down with symptoms and signs of the disease after recent sexual contact with partner who had returned from Venezuela. This has raised concerns about global spread stemming from human to human spread.
Signs and symptoms are fever , rash , joint pains, muscle aches , conjunctivitis. The incubation period is not exactly known but has been speculated to be less than a week . Severe illness warranting hospitalisation is uncommon- Death from Zika viral infection is rare.
Diagnosis is mainly clinical and is includes patient’s recent travel history to high risk areas . Fever, headache, conjuctivitis, rashes, muscle aches. PCR can be done after onset of symptoms. Serological test is only useful after 5 days
The worrying outcome is that babies born to exposed mothers had microcephaly ( small head). Strong evidence of vertical transmission through breast milk is also lacking
Treatment is mainly conservative and includes drinking a lot of fluids ,taking acetamenophin and resting. There is no vaccine available at the moment
The Aedes mosquitoe bites mainly during the daytime people are advised to wear clothing that cover exposed parts such as the arms and legs . Travellers to Southeast Asia South America are cautioned to sleep in insecticide treated nets and use insect repellents
Dr Ametih, KATH, Kumasi