Wellness

Can the Zika Virus Affect Vision?

Zika Virus

The Zika virus spreads through a bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes species. Although few people exhibit any noticeable physical symptoms of the disease, health experts believe infected adults and children born with Zika may experience vision problems.

 

Background
Zika originally was discovered in 1947 in monkeys living in the Zika Forest in Uganda. Five years later, in 1952, it was detected in humans. The first major outbreak of the Zika occurred in 2007 in the Yap Main Islands, part of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean.

Symptoms
Most people bitten by an infected mosquito don’t realize they have the disease. In fact, only 1 in 5 infected people notice any changes in their health. Common signs of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain or redness in the white of the eye (called conjunctivitis or pinkeye). These symptoms usually appear within three to 14 days after the bite and can last several days to a week.

Some people infected with Zika have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects the nervous system. It usually causes temporary numbness, tingling, diminished reflex control or temporary paralysis in part, or all, of the body.

Exposure
Pregnant mothers infected with Zika can pass the disease to their children in the womb or around the time of birth. Adults with Zika also may spread the disease through unprotected sexual contact or a blood transfusion.

Vision problems
Children born with Zika may exhibit birth defects, such as microcephaly, which causes a smaller-than-normal head and brain, or eye abnormalities.

  • Stanford University School of Medicine reports that researchers are studying the range of vision problems experienced by babies with Zika. They found that babies with microcephaly could have macular and optic nerve damage, which can lead to blind spots or decreased peripheral vision. If vision problems are not treated, the disease and can lead to blindness.
  • Researchers also are studying vision problems of babies infected with Zika, but who do not have microcephaly. They are unsure whether Zika causes vision problems or microcephaly created by the virus does it.

Researchers have discovered that adults infected with Zika may experience uveitis, a serious eye inflammation, which can lead to high blood pressure and cataracts. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine are studying whether Zika could be highly contagious during a set period of time after exposure, and if during this time Zika could spread through tears.

Protection
To reduce the risk of contracting Zika, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage people, especially pregnant women, to avoid regions reporting an outbreak and avoid unprotected sexual contact with anyone infected.

 

Sources:
WebMD
World Health Organization
Prevent Blindness
Science Daily
HealthDay

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