Last year, productivity in Jamaica was crippled due to an outbreak of the chikungunya virus, popularly referred to as chik-v. Even as the nation waits to hear from the relevant ministries just how many cases were reported and how this dip in productivity impacted the country, we are now being told to brace ourselves for a new mosquito-borne plague – Zika virus or ZIKV. There is currently a ZIKV outbreak in Brazil, and the Ministry of Health has warned that the virus poses a potential threat to Jamaica.
Just what is this ZIKV?
The Zika virus is borne by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect responsible for transmitting the dengue and chikungunya viruses and share similar symptoms. It was first isolated in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. The first recorded outbreak was in Indonesia in 1978. Another outbreak occured on Yap Island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean in 2007.
Because the virus has spread outside Africa and Asia, ZIKV is considered an emerging pathogen. To date, the illness has been mild and self-limited
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned above, the symptoms are similar to those experienced with chik-v:
- low-grade fever (between 37.8°C and 38.5°C)
- joint pain, notably of small joints of hands and feet, with possible swelling
- muscle pain
- cutaneous maculopapular rash
- post-infection weakness
Symptoms usually appear three to 12 days after an infected mosquito bites a person and can last for four to seven days.
How is it treated?
See your doctor is you display any or all of the symptoms described above. The symptoms can be treated by non-steroid anti-inflammatory or non-salicylic analgesic medications. No vaccine or preventive drug is available.
Since there is no vaccine to prevent infection, the only ‘cure’ is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Here are some tips:
- Destroy mosquito breeding grounds by emptying water from containers such as old tyres, drums, barrels, discarded containers, bottles, flowerpots and saucers, pet dishes – anything that can hold stagnant water.
- Scrub containers after you discard the water as mosquito larvae may still remain alive.
- Cover all drums, tanks, barrels and buckets that are used to store water.
- Cover trash containers to keep out rain water.
- Punch holes in the bottom of tins before placing them in the garbage.
- Clear or help to clean blocked drains near your home.
- Use window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and lemon, citronella or eucalyptus oils and para-menthane-diol products.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants as much as possible to cover your skin, but do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.