You may have heard about a virus which is threatening to cause a major health epidemic, possibly even jeopardising the Olympics, due to take place in Rio, Brazil this summer.
But what is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. It is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses.
During the first week of infection, the virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
Zika virus often produces flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches and joint pain as well as skin rashes and conjunctivitis among others.
The Zika virus can migrate between humans through sexual contact and it can also cross the placenta, affecting an unborn fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
The virus can cause a birth defect called microcephaly.
Microcephaly is a medical condition in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing.
The head size is therefore much smaller than is normal for the child’s age and gender.
In general, life expectancy for individuals with microcephaly is reduced and the prognosis for normal brain function is poor.
There is no treatment, but people who are sick with Zika virus can receive supportive care, such as pain relievers or fluids.
Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found who has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk for infection, including pregnant women.
US health officials currently recommend that pregnant women should consider postponing trips to 22 destinations.
The travel alert applies to women in any stage of pregnancy.
Public Health England also advises that if a woman is at risk of getting pregnant, or is already pregnant, “condom use is advised for a male traveller for 28 days after his return from an active Zika transmission area if he had no symptoms of unexplained fever and rash and for 6 months following recovery if a clinical illness compatible with Zika virus infection or laboratory confirmed Zika virus infection was reported”.