1) RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS
The symptoms range between 3 and 12 days to occur:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Muscle and joint pain
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis) and/or pain behind the eyes
- A rash
2) KEEP IN MIND THAT MANY PEOPLE DO NOT SHOW SYMPTOMS
One of the major challenges of recognizing a Zika infection is that most infected people have no symptoms at all.
3) CONSIDERING TIMING
The time-frame for developing symptoms is usually three to 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti).
However, keep in mind that a lack of symptoms does not mean that you do not have Zika.
4) SEE A DOCTOR FOR A BLOOD TEST
The only sure way to determine if you have Zika is to have a blood test.
Zika has symptoms that are similar to dengue fever and chikungunya, so even a doctor cannot diagnose you without performing a blood test.
5) BE AWARE OF POTENTIAL COMPLICATIONS OF ZIKA
The biggest risk of a Zika infection is not the infection, it is the potential complications that can develop as a result of the infection.
Although complications only develop in a small minority of people, they can be severe. The two main complications that are suspected to be linked to the Zika virus are:
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which is a neurological condition that can lead to potential paralysis.
- Microcephaly, which is a birth defect that develops when women who are pregnant become infected with Zika. Infants born with microcephaly have an abnormally small head and may have developmental delays as well. Some infants may even die as a result of this birth defect.
6) RECOGNIZE SYMPTOMS OF GBS
GBS has been linked as a potential complication of the Zika virus, but there is not yet a proven link between the two. Still, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of GBS if you have Zika.
GBS is an autoimmune disorder that may occur following a viral infection such as Zika. It affects your nervous system by damaging the nerve coverings.
- Numbness in the lower extremities such as the feet, lower legs, and hands
- Difficulty moving
- Numbness and/or paralysis that gradually moves upwards
- Difficult breathing if the paralysis moves to the chest area
7) WATCH FOR SIGNS OF MICROCEPHALY IN NEWBORNS
Microcephaly in newborns has also been linked to the Zika infection in pregnant women (who then pass it on to their fetus in the womb).
Microcephaly refers to an abnormally small head. This condition can lead to developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and, in severe cases, it may even lead to death.
When your baby is born, the doctors will take routine measurements of head circumference (both at birth, as well as at progressive intervals throughout your baby’s growth). It is through abnormally small head circumference measurements that a doctor may diagnose your baby with microcephaly.
Microcephaly is defined as a head circumference of less than 42cm at full growth.
Doctors can use age-based growth charts to determine whether your baby’s head circumference fits into the normal range at each developmental stage.
If your baby is diagnosed microcephaly, it may be a sign that you have recently been infected with the Zika virus.
8) KEEP IN MIND THAT THERE IS NO CURE OR VACCINE FOR ZIKA
However, GBS is treatable, so see a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have GBS.
Microcephaly cannot be treated, but there are support strategies that may help your child reach as many developmental milestones as possible through physiotherapy.