The World Health Organization (WHO) says, since 1952, the Zika virus has been identified in humans, and the best way to stop transmission of the virus is by not getting bit by mosquitoes. Doesn’t exactly sound reassuring, and according to Dr. Sergio Cortes, one of the primary dangers of the disease is contracting Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Dr. Cortes offers a run-down of the disease on his blog and explains the danger of Guillain-Barré’s neurological complications. An autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barré can occur at any age, but is most common in people between 30 and 50 years of age. It usually follows a minor infection, but can result in nerve damage, causing tingling, muscle weakness and even paralysis. While there is no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome, there are various treatments available to help diminish the severity of symptoms, and speed recovery.
Although most news reports describe the Zika virus in a haphazard manner, Dr. Cortes provides more methodical input on his official blog.
Zika Becoming A More Vexing Problem
First spotted in 1947 in Uganda, deep in the forest of Zika, the virus transmits by Aedes mosquitoes, sometimes called tiger mosquitoes: the same species that transmits three other tropical infections, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya. Dr. Sergio Cortes says even more alarming, healthy mosquitoes undertake the virus by biting a zika-infected person, and go on to then infect healthy people.
Previously reported as a benign problem, Zika is now suspected to have caused an epidemic of birth defects in the French Polynesia in 2007 and 2013. By year-end 2013, approximately 55,000 people had been infected.
Pregnant Women Are Most Vulnerable
Pregnant women should be especially vigilant, and Dr. Sergio Cortes strongly recommends that pregnant women defer potential travel to affected countries. Symptoms have largely gone unnoticed in the vast majority of cases. Mild fever, headache, and body aches typically occur within 7 days of a mosquito bite, and typically manifest into rashes, conjunctivitis, swelling of the hands or feet, and muscle and joint pain.
Currently, there is no specific cure or vaccine for the virus. Just common drugs to help with pain and fever. Dr. Cortes points out that while you should not panic, everyone should protect themselves. Repellents, long-sleeved clothing, mosquito nets, and insect screens are just a few precautions to employ.