Thu | Sep 20, 2018

ZIKV FACTS: Common symptoms of Zika virus

Published:Saturday | January 30, 2016 | 10:12 AM

With all the commercial chemicals available to us today there seems to be more mosquito borne diseases around than a decade ago. Scientists attribute this in part to climate change. Other contributory factors include urbanisation, abuse of chemicals, resulting in insecticide resistance, and human habits and practices which favour the breeding of insects.

The mosquito can be not only annoying but there are those that can give you a terrible sting or bite. Not all species of mosquitoes are carriers of diseases but humans certainly know a lot about the characteristics and habits of the mosquito to avoid being bitten.

Several factors have contributed to the ease with which mosquito-borne diseases spread from continent to continent. Travel between countries by boat, airplane or across land crossings, has been cited as one of the reasons diseases, including mosquito-borne diseases, get introduced in regions of the world that did not previously detect these diseases.

Vector borne diseases spread by mosquitoes include:

* Malaria
* Dengue fever
* Yellow fever
* Chikungunya
* St Louis Encephalitis
* West Nile
* Zika Virus

All are caused by viruses, with the exception of malaria, which is a blood parasite.


The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on May 7, 2015, issued an Epidemiological Alert recommending that Member States establish and maintain the capacity for Zika virus infection detection, clinical management and an effective public communication strategy to reduce the presence of the mosquito that transmits this disease and personal protection from the bites especially in areas where there is a predominance of mosquitoes.

Common symptoms of Zika virus fever are:

* Fever
* Rash which may be itchy
* Red eye
* Headache
* Muscle aches
* Joint pains
* Weakness
* Swollen lower limbs

Other less common symptoms include pain behind the eyes, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Zika virus infection is non-specific and may present like other types of illnesses, including:

* Dengue
* Chikungunya
* Measles (fever and rash)
* Malaria
* Leptospirosis

For this reason the doctor will also order lab tests to confirm a specific diagnosis.


There are no vaccines currently available to prevent ZIKV infection. Treatment is symptomatic and involves fluids, rest, antipyretic and analgesic agents. The antipyretic and analgesic agent that is recommended is acetaminophen or paracetamol. Antihistamines may be used to relieve the symptoms of pruritus (itching) associated with the skin rash.


* Apply mosquito repellent with 30 per cent DEET if you are living in an area or vacationing in a place with mosquitoes

* Mosquito repellents made from natural plant material (for example, citronella) may help but have to be applied frequently

* Mosquito repellents such as candles and sprays are helpful

* Wear long sleeve light coloured shirts and pants when outdoors

* Sleep under a mosquito net. This is especially important for babies and young infants, as one should avoid using the chemical DEET on the young child’s skin.

* Each week for 10 minutes search indoors and outside the house for containers with water (vases, flower pots, old tyres, gardening tools, gutterings and drains, etc.) that can potentially breed mosquitoes. Empty water from containers, turn over receptacles that could hold water. Remove debris from guttering and drains. If you must store water, treat the containers with the recommended chemicals to prevent breeding by the mosquitoes.

A special word of caution to pregnant women and persons living with chronic diseases.

Heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, sickle cell disease and pregnancy put individuals at risk for complications from the Zika virus illness.

Take the above given tips seriously. Avoid being bitten as best as you can. If you develop a fever, joint and muscle pains or rash then without delay seek out your clinic or private healthcare provider.

Have a wonderful holiday and keep safe from mosquitoes bites.