The Facts On The Zika Virus

Dr. Virender Sodhi, the first licensed Ayurvedic Physician in the United States with over 30 years experience, discusses key aspects of the newsworthy Zika Virus. 

1. What is the Zika Virus?

2. What travel precautions can be taken?

3. Is The Zika Virus The Real Cause Of Microcephaly?

4. What are symptoms of the virus?

Recent health reports regarding this new found Zika virus have created waves in the United States and Latin American countries. This flavivirus is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Aedes aegypti is also responsible for causing dengue and chikungunya fevers. While about 80% of those infected are asymptomatic, common symptoms of the Zika virus include: acute onset of fever, maculopapular rash, arthralgia, or nonpurulent conjunctivitis. Such symptoms last up to one week, where hospitalization is not common and fatality is rare.

However, recent health news reports have made claims regarding the potential link between Zika virus and fetal danger in the development of microcephaly.

Microcephaly, a decreased head circumference, is often the result of abnormal brain development and leads to long-term developmental delays including mental and motor defects such as cerebral palsy. Other causes of microcephaly include chromosomal abnormalities, drug/alcohol exposure, environmental toxins, premature fusion of skull bones (known as craniosynostosis), and other metabolic conditions.

Zika virus gets its name from Zika forest in Uganda, where this virus was accidentally discovered while studying Aedes aegypti for yellow fever. Zika virus is known to infect monkeys.

In early 2015, a Northeast Zika virus RNA strain was found in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women in Northeast Brazil. The fetuses had shown development of microcephaly in prenatal ultrasounds. Could there be a correlation to this virus and the development of fetal maldevelopment?


Reducing exposure to mosquito bites reduces the potential for contracting the Zika virus. These include:

Avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus is prevalent
Eliminate mosquito breeding areas (ie. standing water)
Wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible (ie. long sleeve shirts and pants)
Use mosquito nets
Stay in air conditioned rooms
Prevent bites by applying insect repellents
Caution should be advised in pregnant and lactating mothers when using insect repellents. EPA registered insect repellents are advisable. Those that contain DEET, picardin, and IR3535 are considered safe for pregnant women.


In considering herbal application of treating mosquito-borne illnesses, we look at herbs that contain anthelmintic, antiprotozoal or anti-malarial properties. Anthelmintic herbs are known to help kill parasites, while antiprotozoal herbs effectively target protozoa, and anti-malarial herbs target malaria producing species to effectively eradicate them. The term larvicidal is also often applied, meaning to kill the larvae of such organisms.


Neem, or Azadirachta indica, is the main herb in Ayurveda recognized for its wide range of medicinal properties, particularly for its bitter action on purifying the blood and detoxification. Neem oil extracted from the leaves and seeds have antiseptic and insect repellent properties (including anti-malarial properties). Although, caution should be used in those that tend towards low blood sugar, as neem has a hypoglycemic effect, and thus, should be taken with food. Topical application is known to be safe even during pregnancy without toxicity potential, but internal intake should be avoided during early pregnancy.


To deter, prevent and treat, take 500mg Neem extract three times a day 10 days before traveling to an infested area, during exposure, and 10 days after leaving an infested area. Neem can also be used as an external spray repellent.


Also known as the Cananga tree, or Cananga odorata, is a tropical tree originating from the Philippines. Often regarded for its pleasant fragrance, the essential oil has a number of medical applications and is considered safe in food amount during pregnancy and in breast-feeding women.

(Photo Credit: Flickr)

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