About the Zika virus

The first case of the Zika virus infection in Singapore was confirmed on 13 May 2016.

What is Zika virus?

In mid-2015, there was an outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America and until March this year, there were close to 4,900 of such cases and 9 deaths in North and South America. How did this frightening virus spread so quickly? Are there any symptoms and measures once someone is infected with the virus?

Zika disease is caused by the Zika virus. People are infected with the virus primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The Zika virus disease is not a new disease. It was first discovered in 1947, named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. The first human case of Zika was detected in 1952 and outbreaks of the disease have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). As of 12 May 2016, active transmissions

of Zika virus have been found in 48 countries and territories in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. Closer to home, Taiwan had its first reported case of the virus in January 2016.

How Zika virus is transmitted

A mosquito is infected with the virus when it feeds on an infected person. The virus remains in the blood and after about 10 days, the infected mosquito will be able spread the virus to other people through bites. In addition, the virus can be spread from one person to another through sexual contact. A foetus will also contract the virus during a pregnancy if the mother is infected with the virus. The Zika virus is alleged to cause birth defects, more studies are planned to learn more about the risks of the virus infection during pregnancy.

Symptoms of Zika virus

Watch out for the common symptoms of Zika, which are similar to those of dengue. They include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and will usually last from a few days to a week. Only about 1/5 of infected persons will display symptoms of the virus within 3 to 12 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, some infected persons do not realise they have contracted the virus since they do not display any such symptoms.

Diagnosis / Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent or treat Zika virus.

  • Consult a doctor if you develops the symptoms described above and have recently travelled to areas where the Zika virus is found.
  • The doctor may conduct blood tests to look for the Zika virus.

Prevention

  • Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites.
  • If you are travelling in area with Zika virus, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and apply insect repellent. Stay in places with air-conditioning and window/door screens to keep out mosquitos and sleep under mosquito nets if possible.
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