Zika Virus

Zika Virus
(Last Updated On: December 2, 2016)

Few Facts:

  • Caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes
  • Prevention is protection against mosquito bites
  • Virus known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific
  • In May, 2015 PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) issued an alert on the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil

An emerging mosquito-borne virus, Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. In 1952, it was identified in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. There are records of Zika virus outbreaks in Africa, the Aericas, Asia and the Pacific as well. Recently, WHO has declared that the clusters of brain-damaged babies born in Brazil is linked by not yet proven to be caused by Zika virus and has declared Zika virus as a public health emergency. This will rise funding towards research around the virus and its impact. (Source) 

Signs and Symptoms

  • The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is likely to be a few days
  • The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days
  • 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
  • Recently in Brazil, 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. Agencies investigating the Zika outbreaks are finding an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly
  • The outbreak in Brazil also led to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome

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  • 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 disease outbreaks were reported for the first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013 (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and in 2015 from the Americas (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde). In addition, more than 13 countries in the Americas have reported sporadic Zika virus infections indicating rapid geographic expansion of Zika virus.


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.


  • Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control relies 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-coloured) 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
  • Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly
  • During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers
  • Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.


There is no vaccine available currently; however there are some precaution measures that one can taken. Zika virus is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People who are sick with this should take plenty of rest, drink enough fluids and treat pain and fever with common medicines. However, if symptoms worsen, they should immediately seek medical care and advice.

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Dr. Udaya Kumar Maiya is one of India's leading oncologists. He is a Director at the Bangalore Hospital as well as a Senior Consultant at Apollo Hospital, Bangalore, and the Bhagwan Mahavir Jain Hospital. Dr. Maiya focuses on Radiotherapy and Oncology and has published a large number of scientific articles on these topics and teaches at the postgraduate level in Bangalore.


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