Zika virus during the covid-19 pandemic – Why we need to be prepared?

Authored by - Dr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Aster CMI Hospital

Zika virus spreads through the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopiticus mosquitoes that are primarily active during the day. The virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus which in turn can cause birth defects and impact the newborns. As the covid-19 pandemic continues to rage in the country, the new and re-emerging pathogen has threatened the health and security of several lives. Therefore, before the infection turns into a double whammy during the pandemic, it has become extremely critical for the population at large to understand and adopt the various control measures to restrict the spread of the disease.

With several cases of Zika virus now being detected in Kerala, Zika virus still does not have a specific treatment or vaccine and the development of the Zika vaccine remains an active area of research. The UN health agency advises people with symptoms to get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and “treat pain and fever with common medicines.” Zika virus infection can only be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. According to WHO, attention should be given to prevent mosquito bites among pregnant women, women of reproductive age, and young children, says WHO.

What are the symptoms of the Zika Virus?

 The first visible sign of Zika is fever, which is much like dengue.  Due to this, many people often confuse the symptoms of Zika with that of flu, and hence, they do not know whether or not they have contracted Zika.

If someone has a fever, running nose, headache, and rashes that persist for over a week, it is important for them to get tested as soon as possible.

Other symptoms of the disease include –

  1. Conjunctivitis
  2. Muscle and joint pain
  3. Headache starting after two to seven days of exposure to the disease.
  4. Autoimmune infections in rare cases
  5. Body ache
  6. Rash
  7. Eye congestion
  8. Myalgia and joint sound

These symptoms usually last for a few days to a week. If someone has traveled to an area with Zika and develops the above symptoms – must contact a health care provider. Molecular tests on blood are used to confirm the presence of viruses.

What is the treatment for the disease?

Even though there is no vaccine for Zika, however, the specific treatment for the disease includes supportive care, rest, and hydration. Patients are also administered paracetamol to reduce fever and no pain killers should be used while treating the disease.

For the caregivers is important to know the following do’s and don’ts –

  • The body fluids and blood must not be touched, if so, wash with soap and water after pricing care
  • If the clothes are stained with body fluids or blood must be washed with the laundry detergent with appropriate water temperature
  • All surfaces if contaminated with body fluids or blood must be wiped with household cleaners or disinfectants

Control measures for the disease include –

  • Mosquito control and prevention of mosquito bites
  • Govt agencies to look at measures for controlling larvae and adult mosquitoes
  • Mosquito control at-home – use of door screens, window screens
  • Close doors
  • Clean vases, water pots at home to avoid waterlogging and mosquito breeding
  • Mosquito repellent creams, nets should help
  • Prevent waterlogging around the house  and construction areas – these are areas where there could be mosquito breeding
  • Local public health bodies must be notified for needful action

It is important to stay alert during the current times. The monsoon certainly is a breeding site for mosquitoes and therefore there is an urgent need for surveillance on pregnant mothers. Currently, local awareness in those areas is being done to spread.

Any person including Covid and Covid recovered patients – prevention of mosquito bites is the key as this is the season for dengue too. If the local health bodies control spread of mosquitoes -vector control measures are taken we should be able to control the infection.

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