Ecuador’s Ministry of Public of Ecuador (MSP) Health says it has confirmed the country’s first cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The victims, who are undergoing treatment, apparently contracted the disease during a recent trip to Colombia.
The victims, both from Quito, showed symptoms including fever, severe itching, rash, fever, headache, and joint pain. Since the symptoms are also common with the chikungunya virus and dengue fever, both common in Ecuador’s coastal lowlands, doctors performed a battery of tests to confirm Zika.
The Zika virus originated in Africa and shows similar symptoms as Chikungunya and dengue. Hundreds of cases have been reported in Colombia, just north of the Ecuadorian border. The World Health Organization says that the first Zika cases in Latin America were reported last year in Chile and Brazil and that the disease spread to Colombia in 2015. “Zika is transmitted in tropical areas by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and can be extremely painful to victims,” says the WTO.
The WTO says that detection of cases of Zika is easier than with Chikungunya and dengue since one of the early symptoms is a rash. “Zika’s rash turns the skin red and sometimes white before it disappears,” says the WTO. “Those living in coastal and low-lying areas who observe the rash should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.”
Unlike Chikungunya and dengue, Zika although accompanied by fever and severe joint pain, is almost never fatal. Early symptoms are conjunctivitis, headaches and skin rashes that occur five to 10 days after a person has been infected. In some cases, the virus can cause temporary paralysis, generally moving from the feet, up the legs.
The mosquitoes that carry the virus are common in areas with elevations of 5,000 feet or lower.