By Deborah Fields, BSc (Hons), PgDip, MCIPR
There is currently no specific vaccine to protect people against the Zika virus or any specific antiviral drug treatment for people who are infected with the virus already. Patients are advised to use medications that can help to alleviate the symptoms that they have.
Around 20% of the people that become infected with the Zika virus, show mild symptoms of the disease. These include fatigue, conjunctivitis, a fever, joint pain, headaches, muscle pain and eye pain. The effects of these tend to be mild and people should be able to treat these remotely with advice from healthcare providers. The virus may have more serious consequences for pregnant women or if it lingers in the system of other patients.
In Brazil, a rise in the occurrence of the disease has been linked to a rise in cases of microcephaly, a condition that causes defects in the head and brain development of infants. The virus is believed to pass into the system of the developing child in the womb. It has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease that affects the nervous system.
People who show symptoms of the disease are advised to rest to ensure that they recover effectively from the virus. They may also feel tired because of the symptoms of the disease in the body.
Patients who are suffering from a fever may benefit from taking paracetamol to relieve the fever, headaches, joint pain or muscle pain that develops. Aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not recommended for the condition.
The fever has the potential to dehydrate a patient through extra perspiration. The patient may feel extra thirsty, tired, dizzy and pass less urine. The urine will also be dark in colour instead of straw-coloured.
Patients should increase their intake of water, fruit juice or rehydration solutions to replace lost fluids. The patient could also benefit from light-weight clothing as well. Care should be taken to ensure that children who are dehydrated also have enough minerals.
Conjunctivitis can result in watery eyes, red eyes, stickiness and pain. It usually starts in one eye and can infect the other. The patient does not develop any problems with vision though the disease. However, the fluid produced by the eye is infectious.
Treatments for bacterial conjunctivitis will not work. Artificial tear drops can help with any dryness that the patient feels in their eyes. The condition tends to improve when the virus clears the patient’s system. The patient should also avoid spreading the contagious fluid to anyone else by maintaining high standards of hygiene.
Last Updated: Mar 21, 2016