Must-read: What every pregnant woman must know about the 'Zika virus'

Must-read: What every pregnant woman must know about the 'Zika virus'

With the World Health Organisation issuing an alert on Zika Virus and Brazil asking women not to get pregnant till the year 2018, it is important that pregnant women know what this deadly virus is all about.

If we talk about the most trending words of the Internet these days, it has to be the ‘Zika Virus’. With the World Health Organisation issuing an alert on Zika Virus and Brazil asking women not to get pregnant till the year 2018, it is important that pregnant women know what this deadly Zika virus is all about.

Here's all you must know about pregnant women and Zika virus.

#1 What is Zika Virus?

The name "zika" originated from the Zika forest near Entebbe in Central Uganda, where the virus was first isolated by scientists back in 1947. The Zika's primary means of spread is through the Aedes mosquito, which spreads dengue as well.

#2 What are the symptoms to look out for?

Only 20 percent of people infected actually fall ill, with the symptoms associated with the virus being quite mild.

Common signs include:

  • Slight fever
  • Rash
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain

Currently, the incubation period is not known, but is predicted to range between a few days to a week. From the first week of infection, the virus is present in the blood and infection via mosquito bites is possible. Fatalities from the virus itself is rare.

#3 Can it be treated?

There is no vaccine available for the virus. Only the symptoms can be treated. The best solution is to avoid getting infected in the first place. When travelling, apply insect repellent, wear clothing that covers the body, arms and legs and if possible, sleep under cover - mosquito nets or wire mesh.

At home, do ensure that there is no stagnant water at home, as that creates a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito.

#4 Is the virus really linked to a birth defect?

The Zika virus is claimed to cause babies to be born with abnormally small heads — a condition known as microcephaly.

Investigations in Brazil are trying to confirm a causal link between Zika virus and microcephaly, with additional studies reportedly to have been planned on the risks of a Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

 #5 How long does the virus stay inside the body, for women who trying to get pregnant soon?

The incubation period is 12 days until you start developing symptoms which stay for a week. The virus takes at least 21 days to be eliminated from your system. However, if you get pregnant later than that you are safe and the virus does not get transmitted to the foetus.

#5 At which trimester is a pregnant woman a maximum risk? 

"I don’t think they are being overly cautious. If I had a daughter who was pregnant or trying to get pregnant, I would not want her to be going to Brazil now. Even in the Caribbean, the number of infected islands is growing daily. And we are always behind in the surveillance,"says Scott Weaver, the director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas, in an interview to the science and health portal

The first trimester is the most dangerous time to contract the virus. Unfortunately, it's usually difficult to diagnose microcephaly until late in the second trimester and that's only with good prenatal care and ultrasound being performed. A lot of cases in Brazil were not being diagnosed before pregnancy.

#6 Should India be worried?

Before 2015, the Zika virus had been found around areas in Africa, South-east Asia and the Pacific Islands.

While India remains Zika-free now, it can easily spread here, especially because of the population and the number of tourists coming here from all parts of the world.

"Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries,” the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says on its Zika webpage.

The total number of dengue cases in India in 2014 stood at 40,197. In 2015 September, New Delhi faced a worst dengue outbreak with more than 10,000 people getting affected and resulting in the death of more than 30 victims, reports The Hindustan Times. The virus could, therefore, spread to India if an infected person travels from Brazil to India.

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