Humanity throughout its existence is constantly struggling with new dangerous diseases. In the Middle Ages, a pandemic of the plague – the “black death” – in Europe claimed the lives of a third of the population – 25 million people. Epidemics of smallpox, typhoid, and cholera fell on people. Scientists have learned to cope with all these misfortunes. But nature does not tolerate emptiness: in the 20th century a new threat to man manifests itself – AIDS. It is impossible to say that medicine defeated this most dangerous disease: while AIDS is incurable, drugs have been created that can support the lives of those infected at an acceptable level. The 21st century was marked by epidemics of bird and swine flu, Ebola.
And now a new misfortune – Zika virus. True, unlike other infections, he is less bloodthirsty – they do not die from him. By the way, this disease is not so new – it was first recorded back in 1947 in Uganda in East Africa. There, in the Zika forest, scientists discovered this virus in rhesus monkeys. From here he got his name.
Until 2007, the virus did not show activity – for 60 years, only 15 people fell ill with fever. But then, in less than 10 years, the disease captured almost half the globe: first Africa, then Micronesia and Polynesia. In 2014, the virus crossed the Pacific Ocean, and since 2015 has conquered the territory of Latin America from Mexico and Brazil to Chile.
Today, Zika virus has reached North America and Europe and has been detected in the United States and several European countries. All these patients brought the virus from countries affected by the epidemic.
And more recently, the virus reached Russia: on February 15, the first case of the disease in our country was recorded – in a woman who returned from the Dominican Republic.
WHO predicts the further spread of the disease with a probability of infection of 3-4 million people, and at its session on January 28, she recognized Zika as a pandemic.
What kind of virus is it, how is it transmitted, and what is dangerous?
As already mentioned, the carriers of the virus are rhesus monkeys, and the carriers are tropical mosquitoes of the genus Aedes. They live next to people, lay their eggs in still water – in flower vases, buckets, flower pots, as well as in hollow trees and piles of garbage. Mosquitoes are especially aggressive during the day.
Fortunately, Zika virus is not transmitted by airborne droplets, but in the world there has been a case of infection through sexual contact. Doctors do not exclude the possibility of transmission of the virus through the blood.
Once in the human body, the virus causes a disease known as Zika fever.
The incubation period of the disease lasts from 3 to 12 days after a mosquito bite. The first manifestations of Zika fever are general malaise, fever up to 38.5 degrees, a slight headache and an itchy rash that first appears on the face and then spreads throughout the body. Muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis, intolerance to bright light, and sometimes upset stomach are also possible. The temperature lasts about 5 days, the rash disappears a little later.
Zika fever is diagnosed by blood by the method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Most infected with Zika virus recover completely without getting any complications. So far, not a single fatal outcome has been recorded. But despite this, the Zika virus is not at all harmless. It is very dangerous for pregnant women, as it can be transmitted to the fetus and cause him such a malformation as microcephaly – a decrease in the size of the skull. As a result, a child is born mentally retarded. So, in Brazil, during the outbreak of Zika virus, 30 times more than usual children with microcephaly were born. Therefore, the governments of some countries of Latin America, in particular Brazil and El Salvador, are asking women not to become pregnant in the next few months or even years until a vaccine is created for the disease.
Zika virus is also dangerous because it can provoke Guillain – Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease characterized by muscle weakness and in some cases causing residual paralysis.
A specific treatment aimed at combating Zika virus does not yet exist, nor is there a vaccine against disease. As with other viral infections, to relieve symptoms: lowering temperature and reducing pain – it is recommended to take antipyretic and painkillers, relieve itching with antihistamines and drink plenty of fluids.
But today, scientists from Canada, the United States and South Korea are already working on a drug against Zika virus and a preventive vaccine. There are reports that our Institute of Virology will do similar research.
Nevertheless, you can not be afraid of the spread of the Zika epidemic in Europe and Russia: mosquitoes that transmit the virus do not live with us. But those who plan a trip to the countries of Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America should be careful: wear clothing that covers their bodies in places of potential infection and use repellents. And pregnant women should completely abandon such a trip.