These days, everyone is consumed with the COVID-19 virus (and for good reason). But it wasn’t long before the Coronavirus pandemic struck that Zika virus dominated the news.
What is Zika Virus?
The Zika infection, usually transmitted by mosquito (less often through sexual intercourse), is rarely life threatening. The symptoms most commonly reported are:
- joint pain
- red eyes (conjunctivitis)
Primary Complication of Concern: Microcephaly
By far the most severe complications occur to babies whose mothers contracted the virus during pregnancy.
Increasing numbers of infants in Brazil, where the virus has reached epidemic proportions, have been born with microcephaly, an abnormal smallness of the head associated with incomplete brain development.
Zika’s Impact on the Eyes: Infants Beware
In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology, over one third of the babies in the study who had Zika virus-associated microcephaly also had vision threatening lesions, most often on both of their retinas.
Zika appears to be related to congenital ocular lesions even as most mothers reported only mild symptoms during the first pregnancy trimester.
A few other studies have suggested that the Zika virus could damage the anterior segment of the affected babies’ eyes. Conversely, very few reports have described eye complications seen in adults during the acute infection — conditions like conjunctivitis, iridocyclitis and chorioretinitis.
Limiting Pregnancies in Areas with Zika Outbreaks
As there is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus, it has been suggested that women in the areas of the epidemic avoid pregnancy.
In addition, it is recommended that pregnant women — especially those in the first two trimesters — not travel to areas where the disease is prevalent, including:
- tropical Africa
- Southeast Asia
- the Pacific Islands
The best way to prevent Zika virus is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites using an EPA-registered insect repellent.