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Understanding Zika virus in Nigeria

Understanding Zika virus in Nigeria

Just when the world and Africa in particular, was beginning to recover her footing following the assault laid on her by the Ebola epidemic, Nigeria is being faced with a nation-wide epidemic caused by the Lassa fever virus. Just like the Ebola virus epidemic, Lassa fever is a haemorrhagic fever with similar virulence and casualties. While the Nigerian nation grapples with the reality of Lassa, the world is being alerted to the existence of Zika virus, presently ravaging South America and Cape Verde.

Unlike the Lassa fever virus which is spread through rats, Zika virus is spread through the bite of an Aedes species of mosquito. Zika can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Presently, there is no documented evidence of infants getting infected with the zika virus through breastfeeding.

Symptoms-wise, the Zika virus is usually mild, with its symptoms manifesting within several days to a week, oftentimes without requiring hospitalization. Also, its symptoms range from fever, joint pains, muscle pains, headaches, rashes and conjunctivitis. However, infected pregnant women have been known to give birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes have been recorded.

Geographically, anyone living or travelling within regions endemic with the Zika virus are at risk of the infection, including pregnant women. Prior to 2015, outbreaks of the Zika virus have been documented in south East Asia, the pacific islands and Africa. In 2015, the first confirmed case of Zika virus was documented in Brazil and at the moment, outbreaks are being recorded in many countries, with its spread expected to continue for some time, South American countries being worst-hit.

At the moment, there is no specific drug or vaccine for the treatment of the Zika virus, instead, the symptoms are treated. These include taking enough rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration and treating the fever/pains. However, preventive measures include the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, application of insect repellent creams on the body, as well as wearing long-sleeved clothing for protection.
At the moment, the best way to prevent this Zika virus disease, spread by Aedes mosquito bites, is to avoid being bitten. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

Ifeoluwa is a medical laboratory scientist at Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ilisha, Ogun state, southwest Nigeria
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