Editor’s Note: Dr. Jacob Lazarovic, MD, FAAFP, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Broadspire®, discusses symptoms of Zika and also offers tips on how to avoid this viral illness. This article first appeared in Broadspire’s Medigram Volume 25, published in August 2016.
Zika is a viral illness which causes mild symptoms resembling influenza in most individuals: fever, rash, joint and muscle achiness, headaches, conjunctivitis (red eyes), etc. Hospitalization is very rarely needed, and there is no specific vaccine, or treatment other than rest, fluids, and medications to bring down the temperature and relieve pain. Acetaminophen should be used for this purpose, but not aspirin or NSAIDs (Motrin, Advil, etc.). The condition is self-limited and typically resolves within a week. As with many other viral infections, a very few patients can develop a neurologic complication known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which can persist for a long time. Zika can be definitively diagnosed by blood or urine testing of suspected cases.
However, Zika may have catastrophic complications for infants born to some Zika-affected pregnant women, the most concerning of which are various birth defects including microcephaly (small head circumference) which results in brain damage. Many cases of microcephaly have occurred in places where the Zika virus has been rampant.