Zika virus can present with a rash, headache, and light sensitivity. The virus also causes arthritis - worsening joint pain and swelling. Movement of the wrist, ankles and thumb joints can be quite painful.
Zika gets its name from the Ugandan Zika forest, where the first case was identified in a primate in the 1940's. The first human infections were diagnosed in the mid-1950s. Now that we live in a globalized world where people can fly anywhere anytime, the disease has gone “viral” spreading to different parts of the world. Most likely someone with Zika boarded a plane and traveled to a place where an Aedes aegypti mosquito bit them. The mosquito then bit someone else transferring Zika virus in the bite.
Once the mosquito bites someone, it takes 14 days before the mosquito can infect someone else. Since the average life span of the mosquito is 30 days, it takes the mosquito half of its life to process the virus. Scientists are trying to figure out ways to counteract the spread of Zika by mosquito. Current efforts include genetic modification, focusing on breeding sterile mosquitoes and mosquitos with shortened life spans that cannot process and spread the virus.
Until recently there was no test for Zika virus. Scientists are actively learning more about the Zika virus every day. Initially scientists concluded that a person is only contagious while they are symptomatic. However, it was recently learned that 80% of carriers do not show symptoms. Furthermore, Zika can survive in semen and can be sexually transmitted to another person. Research is currently in progress to quickly learn as much as we can about this once unknown and “insignificant” virus.
Until advances in research or other therapies develop to combat the Zika virus, there are some basic precautions to take when in Zika zones. When traveling to these areas, wear insect repellant, long sleeves, and long pants. Remove any standing water where the mosquitos like to breed including containers, bottles, and even bottle caps. Try to stay indoors in buildings with mosquito screens and air conditioning.
Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation with 26 confirmed Zika virus infections in over 10 counties in Florida.