♣ Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that is spread by the Aedes species of mosquito, the mosquito also responsible for the transmission of dengue and chikungunya viruses.
♣ Unlike malaria-carrying mosquitos, this species is mostly active during the day.
♣ The two known species responsible for Zika transmission are the Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian Tiger mosquito, and the Aedes aegypti species.
♣ The Zika virus was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. The first human case, however, was detected in Nigeria in 1954, and following that there have been further outbreaks in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.
♣ Zika virus infection is symptomatic in only about 1 out of every 5 cases. When symptomatic, Zika infection usually presents as an influenza-like syndrome, often mistaken for other arboviral infections like dengue or chikungunya.
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Other symptoms include: Muscle pain and Headaches
Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
- Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners.
- Only people with sex partners who live in or travelled to an area with Zika are at risk for getting Zika through sex.
- Zika can be passed through sex, even if the person does not have symptoms at the time.
- It can be passed from a person with Zika before their symptoms start, while they have symptoms, and after their symptoms end.
- Though not well documented, the virus may also be passed by a person who carries the virus but never develops symptoms.
- Studies are underway to find out how long Zika stays in the semen and vaginal fluids of people who have Zika, and how long it can be passed to sex partners. We know that Zika can remain in semen longer than in other body fluids, including vaginal fluids, urine, and blood.
- Condoms and other barriers can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex.
- Barriers that prevent passing Zika through sex include male and female condoms and dental dams.
- Dental dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex.
- To be effective, condoms should be used from start to finish, every time during vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
- Not sharing sex toys can also reduce the risk of spreading Zika to sex partners.
- Not having sex eliminates the risk of getting Zika from sex.
During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in a person’s blood and can pass from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
Couples with a partner who lives in or has travelled to an area with Zika should take steps to protect during sex.
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) symptoms include weakness of the arms and legs and, in severe cases, can affect the muscles that control breathing. These symptoms can last a few weeks or several months. Most people fully recover from GBS, though some people have permanent damage. Very few people die from GBS.