The recent increase in the number of Zika virus transmissions in Thailand has raised alarms in our community. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has reported to Reuters that they have “recorded over 200 cases over the past three weeks, and have confirmed an average of 20 new cases a week.”
In the midst of this, we stress the importance of remaining calm and employing common-sense prevention against infection. We also stress that Zika is only a major threat to women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, as the virus can cause birth defects. To this end, we recently sat down with our infectious disease specialists to bring you the following information regarding the Zika virus.
What is Zika, and How Can You Get Infected?
Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also responsible for the spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. In addition to mosquitos, the virus is also transmitted by blood transfusions from infected persons, or unprotected sexual contact with an infected person who is actively displaying symptoms.
What are the Symptoms?
Most people with an active Zika infection may not experience any symptoms at all, and therefore not be aware that they have been infected. The symptoms are usually mild, but some patients can experience the following symptoms within 2-7 days of being infected:
- Rash (at bite site, if applicable)
- Muscle or joint pain
- Redness of the Eyes (Conjunctivitis)
If you experience any of these symptoms and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, please seek immediate medical attention.Contact one of our infectious disease specialists by calling 0 2011 2222 or visit our website to set your appointment. Your doctor will be able to give you clear instructions on how to treat the symptoms, some of which are usually mild and can be treated by getting plenty of rest and fluids.
If you believe you have been infected, here’s what you need to do:
- First, don’t panic. Contact your doctor immediately and inform them of your possible infection. This is especially important if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
- Get tested for the virus right away.
- Avoid transmitting it to others by practicing safe interactions and avoiding further mosquito bites, especially after the onset of symptoms.
What Pregnant Women Need to Know
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you are advised to take more precautions against infection. While symptoms of the virus are generally mild and can be treated relatively easily, pregnant women can transmit the virus to their child at the time of birth or shortly after, causing birth defects such as Microcephaly (identified by a small head size and developmental difficulties).
How to Avoid Infection:
- Avoid mosquito bites by using an effective mosquito repellent or protective clothing when outside.
- Always practice safe sex by using protection, even with a long-time partner.
- Keep your home clean, and get rid of stagnant water which can be a breeding ground for mosquitos.
While there are still a lot of unknowns regarding the spread of the Zika virus, experts are working to close the knowledge gap and vaccines are currently being tested. Until a successful vaccine is available, the best thing to do is to avoid being infected by making safe and sensible decisions. If you believe you may be at risk, talk to your doctor today.
By Dr. Prasong Pruksananonda , Pediatric Specialist, Infectious Disease, Children’s (Pediatrics) Center, Bumrungrad Hospital
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