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The new STD, the Zika virus and how to prevent it

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is endemic in some areas of Africa and East Asia, but in the past few years it made headlines when it became dominate in South America, particularly in Brazil, and later spread to Florida in the United States.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United Stated of America, in 2016 added the Zika virus on their list of sexual transmitted diseases. This was since the transmission have been found possible between men and women during sexual intercourse.

How is it transmitted?

Besides that the virus is transmitted from insects bites, that of the Aedes mosquitoes, to humans. The incubation period after been bitten by an infected mosquito is around 3 -12 days.

Although infections are not contagious between humans, it has been found that there is a transmission between humans during sexual interaction.

The Zika virus can be transmitted by bodily fluids, such as vaginal fluid and semen, and other bodily fluids like blood, saliva and urine; between different sex partners, be it a male to female and female to male, or male to male, or female to female. The infection can occur during unprotected anal, vaginal, or oral sex, or if sex partners sharing sex toys.

The research has indicated that although the incubation period for Zika is around 3 -12 days, the virus can remain active in semen for around 93 days after infection.

The symptoms

A lot of people that are infected by the Zika virus do not get sick. Some will develop a mild illness. However the symptoms of the Zika virus includes:

  • A rash
  • A low grade fever
  • Join pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Red eyes

Less common symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain

The symptoms will normally resolve themselves within a period of a week.

Testing

Your doctor will take your history and conduct a physical examination. Blood tests will also be ordered. With these blood tests, the laboratory will be searching for the presence of the virus genome.

Treatment

The Zika virus is not life treating, if you exclude the complications of congenital microcephaly. That is since a new born with congenital microcephaly might long live long.

Hospitalization is normally not needed. But the treatment of the Zika virus is related to the symptom control and over the counter medication.

Also, if you are with a partner, or you want to get pregnant it is best that your health care provider speaks to you about the complications, risks and how to prevent the infection.

Possible complications

The Zika virus is known to cause a role in developing congenital microcephaly among new-born’s whose mother were infected during pregnancy. Congenital microcephaly is when the new born is born with a small head and brain. A new born with congenital microcephaly can develop brain and heart problems.

For more information on congenital microcephaly, do view this video:

Recent studies, however, have indicated a bigger threat, that sexual infections such as the Zika Virus might be worse for the pregnancy. That is since the Zika virus may get straight to the developing fetus without even entering the mother’s bloodstream.

Other complications, although rare, are neurologic problems and dehydration that could develop. In addition as from the research coming from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization has indicated other complications that can develop after infection by the Zika virus which can be eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth, as well as possibility of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, as well as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). All of these can wary from fair to poor outcomes.

Prevention

Prevention is possible, by preventing bites of mosquitoes and since it is in men that can the virus longer in their semen, woman need to take extra care. That is particularly those pregnant women, and those that are planning to get pregnant, whose male sex partner might be travelling to a Zika infected area. They should make use of condoms or refrain from sex during the pregnancy at least 6 months, to avoid infection. If no symptoms are present, precaution is advised for about 8 weeks.

If a couple is planning to get pregnant, then they should ideally should avoid infected areas. And wait for conception after possible exposure to the Zika virus.

Still correct and consistent use of condoms are useless to prevent the spread of the virus from the male to female or male to male. But they also prevents HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

There is no vaccine against the Zika virus.

About Jacques Dippenaar

Jacques is an influential health blogger and researcher helping readers explore interesting facts and information.

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