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What to know about the Zika virus

HealthBy Sunday World
What to know about the Zika virus

The Zika virus is spreading like wildfire through the media, causing mass panic around the globe. But how much do we actually know about the condition? Before you find yourself in a frenzy, here's some pointers on what to be familiar with.

1. Humans catch it through mosquitoes

It's well known that these bugs carry diseases, and the Zika virus is one of them. But it's only the Aedes species of mosquito which transmits it, the same species that can give people the dengue fever that can cause illness and death in tropical locations. While many mosquitoes come out at night, these ones are more active during the day and have a more aggressive bite.

2. It can be transmitted through blood or sexual contact

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven't given a warning about this as the evidence is quite limited, there have been a few cases documented. They showed Zika had been transmitted through a blood transfusion, and it was also found in semen even after leaving the infected person's blood stream. Add an extra barrier by wearing a condom if you feel wary.

3. Pregnant women be careful

Zika has been linked to major birth defects as the virus can be transmitted from mother to foetus, or even to newborns, although this is more rare.

"The major concern with Zika virus and pregnancy is possibly a link to a condition known as microcephaly," Niket Sonpal, M.D., associate clinical professor at Touro College of Medicine in New York City, states, according to shape.com. "With this condition, the baby's head is much smaller than expected, which can lead to many neurological problems."

4. It's spreading rapidly

There were only a few cases of the Vika virus in humans up until 2007, but nine years later the illness appears to be spreading eastwards. It's hitting the Caribbean, South America and Central America, and is now deemed as a pandemic. It's even causing travel bans.

5. But it might not be serious

The severe symptoms of Zika are extremely rare for women who are not pregnant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out. More common effects are joint pain, rash, fever and conjunctivitis which last between a couple of days to a week. Only one in five people who contract the illness will really suffer, with Niket sharing recovery tips.

"For people who do get sick, the illness is usually mild and self-limited. Rest, getting enough fluids, and time will take care of it," Niket said. "If you don't get better after a few days, see your doctor right away."

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