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Dr. Sachin Shelke
Internal Medicine


If you believed that mosquitoes only cause malaria, dengue and chikungunya, you are wrong. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report stated that the mosquito is the primary vector for causing and spreading the deadly Zika disease. Zika is a viral infection native to Asia and Africa. Zika is caused by the bite of the Aedes mosquitoes, which also causes chikungunya and dengue. In fact, WHO has declared Zika a global emergency.

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The symptoms of zika virus are almost the same as in the case of flu:

  • Mild fever

  • Headache

  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

  • Skin rash

  • Myalgia (muscle pain) and/ joint pain

  • Fatigue

After the mosquito bite, it usually takes ~7–14 days for the symptoms to appear. This is known as the incubation period. Usually, the symptoms last for two days to a week. As per The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), one out of every four people infected with the virus show symptoms. In certain individuals, a neurological condition causing muscle weakness and paralysis, known as Guillian–Barre syndrome, may occur.[1,2]

Causes And Risk Factors


Zika is caused when a mosquito infected with the zika virus bites a healthy person; however, this is not the only mode of transmission. According to WHO, the virus can be spread through bodily fluids such as saliva and urine and from mother to baby during the initial stages of pregnancy because the virus can be reported in both amniotic fluid and placenta. Because the virus can be transmitted through blood or seminal fluid, it is advised to be extra careful during blood transfusion and sexual intercourse.

Risk Factors

The risk of suffering from zika is high if you are - · Immuno-compromised patients such as those suffering from heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and elderly people and young kids.

  • Pregnant

  • Those residing in mosquito-infested areas

  • Travelling to zika-affected nations


As Zika is caused by a bite of a zika virus-infected mosquito, the only way to prevent zika is to avoid mosquito bites. Some common tips to prevent ZIka are listed below:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding

  • Wear clothes that cover your entire body

  • Use mosquito repellents

  • Spray mosquito repellents on clothes

  • Use mosquito nets for sleeping

  • Cover your doors and windows

  • Avoid travelling to zika-affected countries

  • Sleep in air-conditioned rooms

  • Use an insect repellent such as permethrin on mosquito bed net when sleeping

  • Control mosquitoes inside and outside your home by preventing water from stagnating because this can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

  • Cover storage containers that hold water to avoid the breeding of mosquitoes

  • If you do not have covers, then use a wire mesh with small holes or use a larvicide for water that is stored and will not be used for drinking purposes.

  • Kill mosquitoes outside your home by spraying insect repellents that target mosquitoes. Spray insect repellents, particularly in dark and humid areas, such as the garage or under the patio furniture.

  • Control mosquitoes inside your home using windows and screens and using air conditioning when possible

  • Protect yourself during sexual intercourse because the virus can spread during sexual intercourse via bodily fluids. This can be performed using condoms or dental dams (polyurethane or latex) sheets during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

  • If a woman gets infected with zika virus and the couple are trying to get pregnant, it is advisable to wait for eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.

  • If a man gets infected with zika virus and the couple are trying to get pregnant, it is advisable to wait for six months before trying to get pregnant.

  • If either sexual partner gets infected with zika virus, it is advisable to use a condom for six months after the infection.[2,3,4]

Even knowing about the top 10 favorite spots of mosquitoes might help you in keeping your home safe from mosquitoes.

  • Potted plants

  • Water tanks

  • Cooler/AC trays

  • Dustbin or trash can

  • Buckets or pails

  • Open windows or door screens

  • Corners of your home

  • Open drainage system

  • Uneven roads or surfaces

  • Construction sites with water pooling


To date, no diagnostic guidelines have been released by the Indian government; however, zika virus is usually done detected on the symptoms and blood tests such as complete blood count (CBC), which might help in the detection of platelet count and red blood cells (RBCs). Moreover, ultrasound might help in the detection of fetal brain development for pregnant women; however, there have been reports that Brazilian researchers have developed a molecular test to detect Zika virus, which helps in the detection of the virus within five hours.


Unlike swine flu and ebola, zika is not an air-borne disease; hence, there is no requirement to quarantine a patient. As the disease is symptomatic (shows symptoms), the patient is usually treated for symptoms. Although there are no set guidelines received by hospitals from the Indian Government for treating zika virus, the primary aim of the treatment in such a case is to treat the patient based on symptoms. It might include the use of medications such as paracetamol to lower the temperature and fever. However, aspirin is a strict no-no because it might further decrease platelet count. For low platelet count, the first line of treatment is to keep the patient hydrated with intravenous fluids. In addition, painkillers or any other medications are prescribed based on the symptoms and condition of the patient. Getting sufficient rest and avoiding dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids can help treat the symptoms. Do inform your doctor if you are taking any other medication for treating an ailment before starting any new medication. Clinical trials are going on to develop a vaccine against zika virus. However, it might take few years for the vaccine to be made available..[5]


Certain do’s and don’ts can help keep zika symptoms away.


  • Control or prevent mosquito breeding. This can be accomplished by taking the following measures.

  • Covering open containers and water tanks with lids

  • Dispose of or destroy any unused junk materials, containers, coconut shells, and tyres.

  • Weekly emptying, scrubbing, and drying coolers used for desserts before refilling them every week.

  • Using fish that are larvivores at ornamental tanks at home or in hotels

  • Empty and scrub all containers that hold water every week to avoid breeding of mosquitoes.

For personal protection, the following measure can be undertaken

  • Interrupting transmission of the virus using mosquito nets for your bed

  • To avoid day time mosquito bites, you can wear long-sleeved clothing and apply mosquito repellents

To manage fever, the following can be accomplished.

  • Paracetamol can be used to treat fever.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.


  • Don’t allow stagnation of water inside or outside your home.

  • Don’t throw any broken utensils or unused tins, bottles, or old tyres around the house because this can be a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito, particularly during monsoon.

  • Don’t self-medicate because there is no medication available for Zika virus
    Don’t use Aspirin for your fever management because it can lead to increased risk of bleeding.[6]

Prognosis And Complications


The zika virus can remain in a dormant stage after infection for a week to ~62 days. While it is found in the blood around a week or ten days after a person is infected with the virus, there has been evidence stating that the virus can be present in the semen for 62 days after infection. As the virus settles itself in parts of the body that are protected from the action of immune cells, it hastens the detection and treatment of the infection.

Usually, besides a mild fever, individuals may not show any signs of infection. However, pregnant women and their unborn children can be the worst affected as it affects brain development and can cause birth defects in the unborn child. As the Zika virus is transmitted via body fluids, it is important to practice safe sex for at least six months after either partner has been infected or when in an area that has an active outbreak of the zika virus.[7]


Serious complications can include paralysis and liver failure, and the prognosis of the disease is very poor since very little information is currently available. While researchers are still debating the link between zika virus and microcephaly, Slovenian scientists confirmed that the relation exists after they reported zika virus in the brain of the foetus of a European woman who later underwent an abortion. The results were substantiated with an autopsy and ultrasound, which strengthened the association between zika virus and microcephaly. According to researchers, the birth defect might be attributed to the replication of the virus in the brain of the foetus. Moreover, a new study revealed that zika infection can lead to a vision-threatening eye disease in infants with microcephaly.

Furthermore, zika virus can cause other complications such as low-birth-weight babies, miscarriages (early loss of pregnancy), premature labour (birth of your child before the 37th week of pregnancy) and still birth (delivering a baby who has died in the womb after the 20th week of pregnancy).[7]

Alternative Treatments

Because there is no effective medication or vaccine against the Zika virus, alternative medicine trials are being conducted. As papaya has been proven useful in treating dengue infection, which is similar to the Zika virus, research into this treatment modality is on. A recent publication has revealed that a Chinese traditional treatment such as Xiyanping injection (which is a traditional antiviral treatment) relieved symptoms in patients affected with Zika virus. Note that additional research in traditional medicine is required to confirm its use for this virus.[8]


  1. Zika Virus. WHO. Available at: (

  2. Zika Virus. Kids Health. Available at: (

  3. Zika Virus. CDC. Available at: (

  4. Zika Virus. CDC. Available at: (

  5. Zika Virus. CDC. Available at: (

  6. Zika Virus Disease. CDC. Available at: (

  7. Zika Virus. Cleveland Clinic. Available at: (

  8. Wiwanitkit V, et al. Journal of Traditional Medicine and Clinical Naturopathy 2017;6e:127.


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