While Nigeria is busy successfully combatting the Lassa virus, a number of South American countries and one African country (Cape Verde) are plagued with the Zika virus. There is no need to panic about ZIKA Virus in Nigeria. However, why is there a need to inform Nigerians about ZIKA infection? The world is a small global village with international travels very common. We should not be caught unprepared.
Nigeria is one of the malaria-endemic countries in the world and this is spread by mosquitoes. Zika virus is also spread to people through mosquito bites which transmit different arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses). The responsible mosquitoes are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus and they cause yellow fever, dengue fever and Zika. These mosquitoes are present in Nigeria. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. Mosquito insecticides may be helpful.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
ZIKA and WOMEN
Pregnant women who get ZIKA infection have been reported to deliver babies with smaller than normal heads and brains that don't develop properly. The exact relationship is still being studied.
LIMITING THE SPREAD OF ZIKA TO NIGERIA
The primary objective of this posting is to provide information for the Nigerians on guidance for Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus surveillance. This will help limit the risk of introduction of ZIKA to Nigeria. Unlike yellow fever, there is no vaccine against ZIKA virus.
Whereas mosquito-based surveillance is the preferred method for monitoring or predicting West Nile virus outbreaks, it is not the preferred method for monitoring or predicting ZIKA virus outbreaks.
Establishing and maintaining a local vector surveillance program to quickly identify and mitigate a mosquito-borne disease outbreak is the critical intervention. So, Nigerians who travel to South America and develop a fever must raise the possibility that this may be due to ZIKA rather than malaria with their doctors or nurses.
Note that with ZIKA virus infection there is a rash and red eyes. It is not APOLLO!
People with the described symptoms MUST report to a healthcare facility and ask the doctors and nurses whether this could be ZIKA infection. The healthcare practitioner may or may not have heard about ZIKA. That’s not a problem – a quick search on the internet will provided the desired information.
ZIKA infection should be made a notifiable disease. I commend the Health Minister, Professor Adewole, the health ministries and public health practitioners in Nigeria for the steps being taken to control Lassa fever.
The 2016 Olympics is in Brazil and there will be Nigerians and other people traveling to the games and back to their countries. In the unlikely event that ZIKA comes to Nigeria, timely identification and response is essential. There must be constant communication between healthcare providers, Federal and state public health departments, and vector control specialists must be put in place. The role of private hospitals is important and they must be included in this public health communication.
Treatment must be initiated whenever a case is suspected or confirmed imported, especially if the patient has just returned from any of the South American countries.
There are no vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat ZIKA infections. However, we must treat the symptoms by
o Taking plenty of rest
o Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration
o Taking paracetamol (Panadol) to relieve fever and pain
o DO NOT take aspirin and drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs may result in haemorrhage (bleeding) if the problem with the patient is Dengue fever.
Public awareness and good sanitation are key to good health. Eliminate mosquitoes from Nigeria. Keep ZIKA out of Nigeria. Stay healthy.