However and can, although rarely, reach and damage the central nervous system, especially during fetal development. In areas hard hit by the 2015-2016 South American epidemic, there has been an unusual increase in cases of neonatal neurological abnormalities and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
This simple observation, supported by scientific evidence, prompted the WHO to conclude that ZIKV infections contracted during pregnancy are a cause of congenital brain abnormalities and that ZIKV is a trigger of GBS.
In fact, it has been observed that congenital ZIKV infection can be associated with a wide range of brain abnormalities, including microcephaly, craniofacial disproportion, intracranial calcifications, brain atrophy and asymmetry, abnormal or absent brain structure, hydrocephalus, migration disorders neurons.
The following neurological problems have also been reported: hypertonia, spasticity, hyperreflexia, irritability, tremors, convulsions, brain stem dysfunction, limb contractures and dysphagia. Concerning the eye, the following problems have been reported: microphthalmia, lens subluxation, cataract, intraocular calcifications, optic nerve atrophy, optic nerve hypoplasia, macular degeneration, macular chorioretinitis, chorioretinal atrophy.
Other neonatal abnormalities that have been reported include: excessive and redundant scalp, arthrogryposis (joint stiffness) and talismus (flexion of the foot that rests only on the heel).
Obviously, congenital microcephaly and other neonatal abnormalities can also have other causes, including genetic disorders (chromosomal abnormalities), craniosynostosis, cerebral anoxia, exposure of the mother during pregnancy to factors such as alcohol, mercury, radiation, severe malnutrition or other infections ( such as cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, rubella, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, chicken pox, syphilis and toxoplasmosis).
The virus generally remains in the patient’s blood (viraemia) for up to 14 days after the onset of symptoms (although there have been cases of much longer viraemia), during which time if it is bitten by a competent mosquito (eg tiger mosquito) , the disease can be spread.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for ZIKV infection or associated diseases.Treatment is symptomatic and mainly based on pain relieving, antipyretic and antihistamine therapy to reduce itching caused by skin rash. In addition, bed rest and fluid replenishment are recommended.
The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by an infected vector (mosquito). Residents or travelers in a country, where the virus is present, must take protective measures by covering exposed skin with appropriate clothing
(long sleeves and long pants) especially during the hours in which the vector circulates (being daytime mosquitoes, from dawn at sunset), use repellents, adopt physical barriers (mosquito nets on doors and windows) and stay overnight in places protected by mosquito nets.
For the possible serious consequences of an infection contracted during pregnancy, special precautions must be taken by all couples who intend to have a child and pregnant women who live or travel to countries at risk. In particular, those who have traveled to these countries should not have unprotected intercourse on their return for at least 3 months for men and 2 months for women.
Those who live in areas at risk and are planning a pregnancy must instead do everything possible to avoid exposing themselves to the bites of infected mosquitoes. More information can be found on the WHO website (see MORE INFORMATION at the bottom of the page).In countries where the virus is not present, the basis for a good response in case of accidental introduction is surveillance.