The Zika virus infection is caused by the same mosquito that is responsible for dengue and chikungunya in India and yellow fever in other parts of the world. It is called the Aedes mosquito which normally bites during the morning and late afternoon or even during the evening hours
The symptoms of Zika are very similar to dengue or chikungunya. There could be mild fever with skin rashes in some. In some others, it could be pain in the muscles and joints, conjunctivitis, malaise and headache. Normally, all this lasts for five to seven days. But, the damage it causes is really to the baby when the mosquito bites a pregnant woman.
In 2015, health authorities in Brazil realised that around the same time as the Zika virus was noticed, there were also a number of children born with unusually small heads. The abnormality, a rare condition, is called microcephaly. The size of the head is an indicator of what could be wrong inside it. In a foetus, the head grows as the brain develops in size. So, when the head does not grow as normally as it should, it means that there is something wrong in the development of the brain.
This incomplete development of the brain means that such babies will suffer from seizures and will not be able to reach the developmental milestones that normal children achieve within the usual time frame. For instance, sitting or standing or moving will be difficult. So, will be swallowing anything. There could also be loss in hearing and vision problems.
However, the last word on the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly has not yet been spoken. It is still being studied by scientists the world over. Microcephaly is life-long condition that could range from a mild to a severe condition. The World Health Organisation or WHO is clear that it will require more investigation to “better understand the relationship between microcephaly in babies and Zika virus”.
Scientists, the world over, are also studying if there is a link between what is called the Guillian-Barre syndrome and the Zika virus. This syndrome, primarily, begins in adults with a tingling or prickly sensation in fingers and toes, weakness of the muscle in legs which travels up to the upper body. It, indeed, could turn worse. There can be difficulty in walking in a steady manner or moving eyes and facial muscles or talking or chewing or swallowing. This could also be accompanied by severe back ache.