By the team of the Travel Medicine Clinic of the CDI – Italian Diagnostic CenterIt is a mosquito-borne viral disease of the genus Aedes. This type of mosquito bites mainly during the day and can also transmit yellow fever, dengue and cikungunja.
THE HISTORY OF THE VIRUS
The pathogen was isolated in 1947 in the Zika forests of Uganda in a rhesus monkey during a study on the transmission of yellow fever. In 2007, the first major outbreak of Zika virus fever occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia, where 185 suspected cases were reported. Subsequently, an outbreak in French Polynesia was reported.
THE VIRUS TODAYThe Zika virus is currently affecting many Latin American countries. In Brazil, a strong epidemic has been underway since 2015: health authorities are investigating a possible correlation between Zika virus infection and an increase in brain deformities (microcephaly) in newborns.
In El Salvador, on the other hand, the possible correlations between this pathology and Guillain Barrè syndrome, of which there has been an unusual increase, are being studied. It is an autoimmune disorder characterized by weakness, paraesthesia and paralysis of the limbs that can be triggered by a bacterial or viral infection.
THE DIAGNOSISFrom the fifth day after the onset of symptoms, the specific antibodies of the Zika virus can be detected by ELISA test (acronym for the expression immunosorbent assay linked to an enzyme) or by immunofluorescence test in serum samples.
Symptoms of Zika virus disease usually appear after an incubation period of 3 to 12 days and can last for 2 to 7 days. The following may occur: fever, rashes that start from the face and spread to the rest of the body, joint pains especially in the hands and feet, muscle aches, headaches, conjunctivitis and neurological and autoimmune complications.
CARE AND PRECAUTIONS
There is currently no vaccine. Therapy is symptomatic and may include taking drugs to relieve symptoms. People traveling to high-risk areas, especially pregnant women, should take some precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites: use mosquito repellent for the body wear light-colored clothing wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants stay in rooms equipped with mosquito nets on doors and windows (or equipped with air conditioning).
The Ministry of Health stressed that although the WHO does not currently recommend the application of travel restrictions to areas affected by the transmission of the Zika virus, it is appropriate to advise pregnant women and those seeking pregnancy to defer non-essential travel to these areas.
The same suggestion is addressed to subjects suffering from diseases of the immune system or with serious chronic diseases. It is also recommended that blood donors who have stayed in areas where autochthonous cases of Zika virus infection have been recorded to abide by the criterion of temporary suspension from donation for 28 days after returning from such areas.