Zika virus: A Bengaluru doctor's guide to prevention techniques
Bengaluru-based doctor, Dr Gaurav Sharma, talks to Hindustan Times about the Zika virus, its treatments, the difference between Zika and dengue, prevention techniques and more.
The Karnataka health department is on high alert after the state reported its first confirmed case of the Zika virus on Monday - a five-year-old girl from Raichur's Manvi taluk. Hindustan Times spoke to Bengaluru -based Dr Gaurav Sharma, a general physician with over 19 years experience in medical research and new medicine development, about the virus, how to treat it, prevention, symptoms, dos and don'ts, and many more. Here are some excerpts:
Q) What is the Zika virus and what are the first few symptoms?
A) Zika is a viral infection spread by the same mosquito that causes dengue - Aedes mosquitoes - which mostly bite during day time.
Q) Karnataka reported its first case of Zika. How easily is it transmissible?
A) Since it is raining in Bengaluru and some parts of Karnataka, it is easier for mosquitoes to breed. But we should not panic just because a case of Zika has been confirmed. Zika only spreads through the mosquitoes, blood transfusions or sexual contact with infected persons. As long as we avoid these and practice precautions, there is no need to panic.
Q) How do we prevent Zika in our daily life?
A) Prevention of mosquito breeding is very important. Avoid accumulation of water. Mosquitoes breed in fresh water. Therefore, we should not let water stagnate. Cover overhead tanks on top of houses if they are open.
They also breed in water collected in vessels and tyres. One should be cautious especially if there is a water body near your house. Cover windows with mosquito nets, and use repellents to prevent mosquito bites.
You can also wear long sleeves and long clothes.
These are some simple measures to prevent infection.
Q) How does Zika affect a pregnant woman?
A)There can be complications like abnormalities in the nervous system of the baby and physical or developmental anomalies as well. The size of the baby's head could be impacted, in that the head could be smaller than normal. This is called microcephaly. Pregnant woman in general are at a high risk.
Q) What are the distinguishing factors between Zika and dengue?
A) Both are viral infections caused by the same type of mosquitoes.
As the first few symptoms are also similar - fever, headache, joint and muscle pain - it is hard to differentiate initially. Only a lab test can confirm either way.
Medicines prescribed for both infections are supportive - they help alleviate symptoms - and include anti-fever medicines, IV fluids and antibiotics.
Viral infections are usually self-limiting/self-resolving. Doctors will use intervention therapy only in severe cases.
Q) Any guidelines for the general public to stay vigilant?
A) It is advisable to undergo routine investigations if one develops symptoms of fever, joint pain and headache. Self-diagnosis is to be avoided. People should consult their physicians promptly if they develop any Zika-like symptoms.
Q) Are there any health problems a patient can develop after recovery?
A) People with co-morbidities are always at risk of primary health problem aggravating. Even a simple cold could turn into pneumonia.
However, once patients heal from Zika, the recovery is usually complete, unlike some patients after contracting Chikungunya - a few might have chronic pain symptoms even after recovery.