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Ever since news broke out about a mosquito-borne endemic originating from Brazil, few people know that the mysterious, and exotic sounding virus is not a new strain but an old one that was first detected in 1947.
The virus was found among infected Rhesus monkeys in the post-war period, which lived deep in the Zika jungle in Uganda. During this time up until 2007, Zika infections were isolated cases.
However when the first infection was documented in Brazil in May of 2015, the virus gradually spread to the Americas, until it finally found its way in the tropical countries of Southeast Asia by 2016.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has come up with several guidelines for travellers who are headed for Zika-prone areas or locals who are already living in areas that have possible endemic transmission.
The basics are: Zika can be contracted when one is bitten by an Aedes aegypti strain of mosquito that carries the virus. Zika can also be transmitted through an exchange of body fluids (such as during sex). This virus is manifested through very mild symptoms (fever, pain in the joints, rash) but can have devastating consequences when a pregnant woman or an infected man transmits the virus to each partner and subsequently, the unborn child.
The result for the infected fetus is Microcephaly, a condition where a baby is born with a malformed skull and accompanying severe congenital defects.
Therefore, all precautions where Zika is concerned relates to protecting one’s self from mosquitoes, avoiding known Zika-infested areas, and avoiding sexual activities, especially procreative sex for a limited period of time.
Here are 7 little-known facts about Zika that everyone should know:
1. There’s no vaccine for Zika.
There’s no way to be immune from Zika at the moment, so prevention is limited to wearing insect repellant, keeping the home free from mosquitoes, and making sure you don’t have sex with anyone without vetting your partner with a urine or blood test.
2. Zika is similar to Dengue.
The Telegraph reports that recently, “researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France found that both Zika and dengue fever can be neutralized by the same antibodies, leading to the possibility of a super-vaccine to tackle both.” Dengue and Zika also come from the same viral family and are carried around by the same strain of mosquito. Could medication and medicinal plants that can be used to fight dengue also work with Zika?
3. Infected men and women should abstain from sex.
If you’re male infected with Zika, the CDC recommends that you should not have sex for at least 6 months. Recently, strains of the virus were found in the sperm of a male long after he started experiencing the symptoms. An infected female can abstain for just 8 weeks.
4. Zika triggers other frightening and exotic conditions.
WHO has identified Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome manifested through temporary paralysis, as a condition that Zika can trigger.
5. Singapore is not the best place to go to right now.
Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore has had an unusually high number of confirmed Zika cases. To date the number has reached almost 300. Compare this to Malaysia which only has one
6. You may have Zika but you won’t know it.
Zika victims may have mild symptoms, or none at all. A simple blood or urine test can confirm this.
7. There’s no meds for Zika.
Just like the common cold, the only cure for Zika is rest, fluids, pain relievers and fever alleviation. What you choose to do after that is going to matter a lot more.