News Focus: Zika virus



Key resources:

Causes

Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Key messages
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Symptoms

The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is not clear, but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

Key messages
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
Diagnosis

Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.

Treatment

Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

Key messages
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.

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The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly. For all these reasons, I have decided to convene an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations.

Video

Animated infographic on the Zika virus. Credit: PAHO-WHO

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