The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert (Level 2 - Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people travelling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The virus is spread by the mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes Aegyti species.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Four in five people who acquire Zika infection may have no symptoms. Illness from Zika is usually mild and does not require hospitalization.
The most common symptoms may include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache. Treatment involves comforting the symptoms and indulging in plenty rest and fluids. Pain medication such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen should be avoided until Dengue fever is ruled out by a medical doctor.
It is believe that there might be a relationship between the Zika virus and a medical condition in newborns known as Microcephaly. This condition results in a reduction in the size of the head of the child. Pregnant women especially are cautioned to avoid areas of infection, or seek medical advice before travelling.
The natural reservoir for the virus is largely unknown, but is believed to be monkeys and rodents. The very first known case of Zika fever was in a sentinel rhesus monkey stationed on a tree platform in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947.
In 2015 an outbreak of the Zika fever in Brazil later triggered officials there to associate infants born since as having contracted Microcephaly from the viral fever. Brazil's Health Ministry says 3,530 babies have been born with microcephaly in the country since October, compared with less than 150 in 2014. Scientists are yet to confirm any aetiolgy.
According to an official from the Ministry of Health in Barbados, of the eight samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing, three were positive and five negative for the virus. (BGIS)