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What you need to know about Zika

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The World Health Organisation are now declaring a medical emergency after growing numbers of Zika cases, with U.S President Barack Obama calling for urgent action to combat the virus. The virus is not fully understood yet, but there have been worrying reports of children born with deformities and warnings to pregnant women. Here is everything you need to know about Zika:

Where is it from?

The virus is mainly found in central and southern Americas, but originated in Uganda nearly 70 years ago.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are generally mild, and most people who get Zika do not show any symptoms. Patients who do usually have itching, rash, headache, eye pain and joint pain.

If there aren’t always symptoms, then how do I know I have Zika?

For those who have recently traveled to countries with the virus and feels unwell, there are blood tests which can indicate the presence of Zika.

Can I be treated?

Those with Zika symptoms have been advised to rest, drink fluids, and to take paracetamol. There is currently no vaccine or medication to treat Zika.

How does it spread?

It is usually transmitted by a mosquito bite, particularly the Aedes mosquito. The mosquito will feed on the blood of a person infected with the virus, which will then multiply within the mosquito. After two weeks, the mosquito can spread the virus by biting other humans. Although rare, it can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse and from mother to baby during pregnancy.

What significance does it hold for pregnant women?

Although not much is known about the link,  there has been reports of women in Brazil giving birth to children with abnormally small heads (microcephaly) who were infected with the Zika virus during their pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), additional studies have been planned in order to understand this link.

How can you avoid infection with Zika? 

As Zika is primarily spread by mosquito bites, the advice has been to completely avoid being bitten by covering up and wearing mosquito repellent. Women who are pregnant or are trying for a baby have been advised to avoid travel to any countries where the virus has been reported.

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