5 Important Questions and Answers on the ZIKA VIRUS
Question 1: What is the ZIKA VIRUS and how do you get it?
The ZIKA VIRUS is a disease caused by viral infection resulting from a bite from a virus carrying mosquito, or via contact with the bodily fluid of an infected individual. ZIKA FEVER, as the illness is known, only occurs in about 1 out of 5 of those so exposed, as most people do not even know they were in contact with the ZIKA VIRUS and show no symptoms. "Zika" takes it name from the African forest where it was first identified in 1947. See microscopic photo of the ZIKA VIRUS at right.
Those few who do develop ZIKA FEVER suffer from a variety of mild flu like symptoms including red eyes, fever, skin rash, joint pain and/or headaches during the initial infection, which can last less than seven days. No one has died from this initial infection and hospitalization is only necessary in the most rare cases. The virus remains in the bloodstream for about a week.
... how do you get it?
Current understanding of how the ZIKA VIRUS is transmitted consists of the primary method via mosquoito bites, but there is recent science which indicates that it secondarily can be transfered from human to human: rarely from mother to child at birth, or between people via infected blood or sexual contact. For preventing these secondary means of transmission read the CDC advice HERE
Mosquito transmission occurs from the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites an infected person, drawing out their blood as it feeds. It then moves on to bite other people for its next blood meal. Any non infected person may potentially become infected by that infected mosquito. This process is the same way that other diseases such as dengue and chikungunya are spread.
Two species of mosquito are believed to be the primary carriers of the ZIKA VIRUS. They are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These species are found around the world (see maps in the next section) including parts of the continental United States. These mosquitoes have been rapidly expanding their range into new areas (source). They breed in standing water and aggressively persue humans to bite for a blood meal, in both the daytime and at night. Once they bite a person already infected with the ZIKA VIRUS, they can carry the disease on to everyone else that they bite until the mosquito dies.
Aedes AEGYPTI Mosquito
Aedes ALBOPICTUS Mosquito
[Mosquito Photos by James Gathany/CDC]
NEXT TOPIC: Question 2) Why all the sudden concern about ZIKA, especially for pregnant women?