Understanding Zika Virus: Symptoms and Treatment

Zika  Virus

Written by Dr. Rachna Kucheria (MBBS MAMC New Delhi, MD AIIMS New Delhi, MD (Family Medicine) USC California), one of the best general physicians in Delhi NCR.

Zika virus, once a relatively obscure pathogen, burst into the global spotlight in recent years due to its rapid spread and its potential to cause severe health complications, especially in pregnant women and their unborn babies. This mosquito-borne virus has raised concerns worldwide, prompting extensive research and public health measures. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into what Zika virus is, its symptoms, and the available treatments.

What is Zika Virus?

Zika virus is a flavivirus, belonging to the same family as other notorious viruses like dengue, West Nile, and yellow fever. It was first identified in a monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947 and later in humans in 1952. For decades, the virus remained confined to Africa and Southeast Asia, causing sporadic, mild infections.

However, Zika virus gained notoriety when it spread explosively through the Americas, starting in Brazil in 2015. This sudden surge in cases raised alarm bells across the world, leading to a declaration of the virus as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Transmission of Zika Virus

The primary mode of transmission for Zika virus is through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes are common in tropical and subtropical regions, making them prevalent carriers of the virus. Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact and from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth.

Symptoms of Zika Virus

Fever: The most common symptom of Zika virus infection is a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by chills and muscle pain.

Rash: Patients may develop a rash that typically begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body.

Joint Pain: Zika infection can cause joint pain, which is usually mild and temporary.

Conjunctivitis: Red eyes or conjunctivitis can also occur, and it is often one of the initial symptoms of the infection.

Headache: Zika-infected individuals may experience a severe headache that can be mistaken for migraines or tension headaches.

Fatigue: Many patients report feeling unusually tired during the course of the infection.

It’s worth noting that not everyone infected with Zika virus will exhibit these symptoms. In fact, approximately 80% of infected individuals remain asymptomatic, meaning they do not show any signs of the virus. This poses a significant challenge in detecting and controlling its spread.

Zika Virus and Pregnancy

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Zika virus infection is its potential to cause severe birth defects, collectively referred to as congenital Zika syndrome, when pregnant women become infected. These birth defects can include microcephaly (an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain), vision and hearing problems, and other neurological abnormalities. Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant are advised to take extra precautions when traveling to Zika-affected areas or when their partner has been exposed to the virus.

Treatment and Prevention

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for Zika virus infection. Therefore, management primarily focuses on alleviating the symptoms and complications. Some of the recommended measures include:

Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body fight off the infection more effectively.

Hydration: Stay well-hydrated by drinking fluids such as water, electrolyte solutions, and clear broths to prevent dehydration.

Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (paracetamol) can help reduce fever and alleviate joint pain. However, avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin, as they can increase the risk of bleeding in some cases.

Avoid Mosquito Bites: To prevent the spread of Zika virus, it is crucial to protect yourself from mosquito bites by using mosquito nets, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and applying insect repellent.

Safe Sex: If you or your partner have travelled to Zika-affected areas, practice safe sex (use condoms) to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.

Pregnancy Considerations: Pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites and should consider postponing travel to Zika-affected regions.

Vaccination and Future Prospects

Efforts to develop a Zika virus vaccine have been underway, but as currently no licensed vaccine is available. However, research in this area has been promising, and it’s possible that a vaccine may become available in the future to prevent Zika virus infection.


Zika virus is a mosquito-borne pathogen that can cause mild to severe symptoms and poses a significant risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. While there is no specific antiviral treatment for Zika, symptomatic care and prevention measures are essential to control its spread. As research continues, we hope to see advances in diagnostics, treatment, and prevention strategies to better combat this global health threat. In the meantime, staying informed and taking appropriate precautions when traveling to affected areas remain crucial in the fight against Zika virus.

In case you have mosquito bite in this season and are worried about (zika virus) the severity of the infection, consult a highly experienced general physician on DocGenie. All our GPs are available for online video sessions. With DocGenie you can get quality medical help from the comfort of your home, in a cost effective way.

About the Author

Dr. Rachna Kucheria is one of the best general physicians in Delhi NCR. She is a US-trained Physician (Family Practice) on the lines of the old-fashioned ‘Family Doctor’ we grew up with and hope to find again. Her emphasis on early, accurate diagnosis; appropriate (few) medicines; and clear patient communication, sets her apart as one of the most trusted physicians in Delhi. She is licensed to practice medicine both in India & California.