Zika virus effects of human life and the eye problem

Zika virus (ZIKV) disease transmitted to an infected human body to another human body by bites from an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti) or through sexual contact. Zika virus is first time detected from a rhesus monkey in 1947 in Uganda from Zika forest. ZIKV identified in a human body for the first time on 1952 from the same country. It was in limelight since 2007 and drastically this virus spreading on 2015. Since 2015, 1.5 Million confirmed cases has been reported in Brazil. Now more than 20 countries in Latin America have been affected by ZIKV and the particular concern is Brazil.  As per the report of American National Health Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently total 58 countries are affected by Zika virus including a major risk at China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand. In India, Zika virus was found 1959 at Karnataka from a monkey. Since 2016 Zika virus was the human health concern at Tamilnadu, Kerala and few other states. WHO declared Zika is a public health emergency in worldwide on 2016 as ZIKV associated with Microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Photo by ow.ly/ZMf8U, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How Zika virus spread?

Zika virus is a type of mosquito-borne virus that means it carried by a mosquito. It is well known that Zika virus spread through mosquito bites and sometimes spread through sexual transmission. Like HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) virus, Zika virus also can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Not all mosquitoes, only Aedes mosquitoes transmit or spread Zika virus from one human to another human body. We all know that Aedes mosquito also transmits dengue and chikungunya same way. These mosquitoes are active more during the day time than night and widely know as a yellow fever mosquito. Also, it can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or through blood transfusion.

Aedes Mosquito Photo By James L. Occi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?

It is very difficult to detect at early stages without the blood test and only 20% of infected showing symptoms. Symptoms are generally last for 1 week. The average duration is 2-7 days. The symptoms are as same as other arbovirus infection like dengue. Most of the cases Zika virus is asymptomatic at the incubation period, or only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms are

  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Vision disorder
  • Hearing problem
  • Malaise

Congenital birth defects: – 

Zika virus can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth, it can be causes of  following congenital birth defects:-

  • Small heads (Microcephaly)
  • Under development of brain
  • Congenital glaucoma    
Last year nearly 4000 babies were born with microcephaly at Brazil which really a bad news.                  
Zika virus effect Microcephali of child
Microcephaly. Photo by William W was taken from flicker

Zika virus and eye diseases: – ZIKV can infect conjunctiva, Cornea, Iris, Retina, and Optic nerve. Most common eye problem from Zika virus is conjunctivitis.  Rare cases it can be causes of Uveitis, Neuro-retinitis, Chorioretinal atrophy and glaucoma also reported. According to a study from Washington University School of medicine, Zika virus can live in eyes and it can be spread through tears. They did a study on a mouse model and found that the ZIKV RNA present on tears. So accidently damage of the blood vessels of the eye can lead eye infection from ZIKV (The pathway of reaching not yet clear).  Though they didn’t find any live virus on mouse tears but still there is a chance that can spread inside of the human eye. So clinician should use hand gloves for the confirmed cases of ZIKV (Zika Virus).

Dr. Albert Icksang Ko, Professor at Yale School of Public health and his co-author published a paper in the journal Ophthalmology that Zika virus affected the development of the eye during the gestation period and glaucoma after birth. For a child, it can be causes of blindness after birth.

How to avoid Zika virus infection?

Our first concern to stop spreading the virus through mosquitoes and sexual transmission.  So it is important to clean your home and living areas to prevent the spreading of disease from mosquito and other insects. Protect yourself from mosquito bites and insect bites. Wear long and loose cloths for avoiding mosquito bite. Use mosquito net while sleeping and apply mosquito net to your windows.

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Unfortunately, there is no vaccination available for ZIKV worldwide.  Travelers should be careful while traveling to the countries where confirmed cases were seen. Pregnant women should avoid the countries where Zika virus seen. Few affected countries heath department advised not to pregnant up to 2 years. As I told before that Zika virus can be transmitted during sex so use the condom every time. If anyone partner traveling to the country where Zika virus seen then at least wait for 8 weeks to get pregnant after returning. take folic acid supplements for 28 days before getting pregnant. If a woman is pregnant during infection time then should be contacted with healthcare provider immediately.


For adults and child in both cases, it should be treated as per symptoms. For eyes, medicine should be used for Conjunctivitis or Uveitis or retinal issues. For children, the eye examination should be one carefully to rule out any kinds of retina disorder or congenital glaucoma.


  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161115164220.htm
  2. http://news.yale.edu/2016/11/30/Zika-and-glaucoma-linked-first-time-new-study
  3. Helen M. Lazear, Jennifer Govero, Amber M. Smith, Derek J. Platt, Estefania Fernandez, Jonathan J. Miner, Michael S. Diamond.A Mouse Model of Zika Virus PathogenesisCell Host & Microbe, 2016; DOI: 1016/j.chom.2016.03.010
  4. http://www.medicaldaily.com/zika-fears-update-virus-may-live-tears-study-says-397039

Krishnendu Mandal
Optometrist, Blogger, Blogging since Jan 2016