It seems the world now is in a state of confusion and fear with the rapid spread of a new virus called Zika. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the virus is a threat to public health and in the absence of a vaccine for treating patients, this has increased concerns among health departments around the world. The WHO also announced earlier this month that Zika, which has appeared in approximately 26 countries, a global health emergency.
Do we have to worry about this virus in Kuwait, and what should we do? The WHO had sent out warnings of the possibility of Zika virus transmissions to some Arab countries, and the importance of taking necessary precautions. Although the infection does not cause any symptoms or permanent damage, the biggest problem is the fear of infection by pregnant women and the possibility of deformation of the brains of fetuses.
Medical reports have confirmed the possibility of transmission of Zika from a pregnant mother to the fetus through the placenta, which leads to microcephaly. The fear exists during the first four months of pregnancy, and it was announced by the Brazilian ministry of health that a link is seen between pregnant women infected with Zika and microcephaly in babies. This disease causes the size of skulls to shrink, limits brain development and causes abnormalities of the fetus. Babies either die or are born mentally, acoustically or visually disabled. These concerns and warnings must be taken into consideration here at pregnancy and maternity clinics.
Zika is transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in tropical areas, not a major concern for most Arab states. The danger of this virus lies in the absence of a preventive vaccine, but according to reports, it does not pose any risk to the health of ordinary people or requires special medications. It causes mild fever and pain, and requires bed rest and plenty of fluids. In the case of worsening of symptoms, a person may be hospitalized until the symptoms go away after 7-10 days at most.
The WHO has announced that the countries of the eastern Mediterranean region are safe from the virus with no recorded case of Zika. The eastern Mediterranean region includes Jordan, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya, Iran, Syria, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But recently, Egypt’s health minister announced that Zika-carrying mosquitoes have entered Egypt in limited areas in the provinces of Minya and Assiut. So far, the reports say everything is under control.
However, this does not mean that the countries of the region are excluded from this danger. Citizens of some countries such as Iraq and Syria, for example, may be vulnerable to the spread of Zika and must therefore be cautious. It seems that we have no choice but to follow the typical methods of prevention to eliminate this disease.
The only way to avoid infection is to avoid mosquito bites that transmit the disease. WHO works closely with ministries of health to identify any suspected case as soon as possible. Experts fear that the virus is spreading rapidly, though there have been no cases of the virus in Arab countries. This may be because the outbreak coincided with winter, as mosquitoes breed during summer and spring, but the ministries of health in Arab countries recommend exercising caution and taking preventive measures.
By Muna Al-Fuzai