A popular saying has it that physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. But how can we exercise physical fitness when the world keeps facing recurring diseases and viruses?
Here in Africa, we are familiar with some health issues caused by mosquitoes: Malaria, Yellow Fever and perhaps Dengue Fever; but I believe a few are aware of Zika virus. This disease which is presently spreading fast across America is said to be among other things causing babies to be born with abnormally small brains.
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We recall that in May 2015, there was an outbreak of the disease in Brazil which medical experts suspected was the cause of the rise in birth defects. Though this virus was first discovered in a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda, no one is entirely sure how the virus made its way to Brazil. Prominent theories on the huge influx of global travelers to the country during the 2014 World Cup alongside the humid environments of Brazil has been purported to have brought and flourished the spread in the country
After 2,782 cases were registered in 2015 – compared to just 147 in 2014 – medical authorities were quick to link the deformation during pregnancy to mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. territory, became the most recent country to detect the Zika virus according to CNN. Since October of last year, the infection has been diagnosed in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Suriname and Venezuela.
Although it can resemble a mild case of the flu, the disease can lead to some serious neurological complications in new-born babies, including paralysis and difficulty in breathing. It’s also the first known mosquito-borne disease that can be transmitted sexually among humans. It is therefore important to note that babies born with the condition suffer from an abnormally small brain and serious neuro-development issues, requiring either life-long care or resulting in early death.
One of the challenges with Zika is that the typical clinical features are similar to those of malaria, measles, dengue, leptospirosis, rickettsia, rubella, and group A streptococcus. At first, those sick with Zika developed fever, joint pains and eye inflammation; then a red, bumplike rash erupted, sometimes followed by painful swelling of the hands and feet. Some people vomited. Others were sensitive to light.
Concerned about the spread of the virus in the city, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issued a warning to tourists, especially pregnant women, traveling to Puerto Rico and other affected areas, asking them to protect themselves from the mosquitoes that spread the virus. Zika outbreaks have been identified recently in several countries in Central and South America.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives in tropical climates and typically lives around buildings in urban areas. It is known to bite aggressively during the day, but can also attack at night, both indoors and out. It’s the same mosquito that can carry yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya.
Now you may be wondering how this virus can be transmitted to a new-born baby and what preventive measure one must take to avoid being infected. Like some other viruses, Zika can be sexually transmitted from one infected partner to another. For pregnant mothers, the baby in you can easily be infected if you expose yourself to mosquitoes especially the specie called Aedes. Detection of Zika virus RNA in human amniotic fluid indicates that the virus can cross the placental barrier, suggesting that fetal infection is possible.
- Prevent mosquito bites by covering exposed skin and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers that are not thin enough to bite through.
- staying and sleeping in air-conditioned rooms with screens on windows or use mosquito nets
- Always apply insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as directed
- You can also purchase clothing treated with the repellent permethrin, but should not apply it directly to skin
Moreover, there is currently no specific treatment for Zika infection but medicines such as painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs can be given to help relieve the symptoms. Because of global travel, health experts have also warned that the virus could appear anywhere in the world.