Zika virus that recently infected five people in Maharashtra’s Pune is majorly asymptomatic, but can resemble dengue fever, said health experts here on Monday.

Zika virus disease (ZVD) is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the mosquito which also transmits dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

It usually bites during the daytime. It is usually a mild to moderate severity disease in adults and requires no specific treatment.

Common symptoms include mild fever, rashes, headache, muscle and joint pain, and inflammation of the underside of the eyelid, which normally lasts for 2-7 days.

“Around 80 per cent of cases are estimated to be asymptomatic, though the accuracy of this figure is hindered by the wide variance in data quality,” Dr. Suruchi Mandrekar, Consultant Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospital, Pune, told IANS.

On the other hand, “symptomatic cases are usually mild and can resemble dengue fever, and may include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash,” the doctor said.

Dr. Digvijay Adke, Consultant and In-charge, Emergency Department, DPU Super Specialty Hospital, Pune noted that “the rise in Zika virus cases, identical to dengue, is primarily owing to multiple factors including sudden weather changes, followed by clogging of drains and water accumulation in the surroundings along with poor personal hygiene practices at an individual level.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Suruchi pointed out that Zika virus infection raises concerns during pregnancy as it can cause microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies.

In adults, it has been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and is known to affect human Schwann cells, that play an important role in supporting the development, function, and regeneration of peripheral nerves linked to movement, breathing, heartbeat, and digestion, among others.

“Prevention involves decreasing mosquito bites in areas where the disease occurs, and proper use of condoms, as it can be sexually transmitted,” Dr. Suruchi said.

Even as there is no current vaccine, the doctors called for efforts such as insect repellent, covering much of the body with clothing, and mosquito nets, and getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes reproduce.

“It is advised to follow hygiene practices like regular washing of hands and refrain from consuming food from unhygienic spots, especially anything that is under-cooked. Including nutritionally rich elements in your daily diet like fruits and vegetables helps in building a strong immune system that helps fight against such vector-borne ailments,” Dr. Digvijay told IANS.

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