Syed Najaf Raza
Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalisation is uncommon. In humans, the virus causes a mild illness known as Zika fever, Zika, or Zika disease, which since the 1950s has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. In 2014, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then to Easter Island and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, where the Zika outbreak has reached pandemic levels.
Experts are worried that the virus is spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences. The infection has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. The WHO alert puts Zika in the same category of concern as Ebola. It means research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection. There have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October. WHO director general, Margaret Chan called Zika an “extraordinary event” that needed a co-ordinate response. Precautions should be taken, like avoiding to the countries which are affected by the Zika virus. Seek advice from their physician if they are living in areas affected by Zika, as well as protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing repellent.