India

With 50 cases, Zika Virus hits India: All you need to know

This is India's biggest outbreak of the disease to date.

Jaipur/New Delhi: Eighteen more people in Rajasthan’s Jaipur district tested positive for Zika virus on Friday, taking the total number of such cases to 50, a Union Health Ministry official said. There have been no deaths so far. This is India’s biggest outbreak of the disease to date.

A team from the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) recently found Zika virus in some mosquitoes taken as samples from Shastri Nagar, leading to suspicion they are behind the infection.

Dr Neena Valecha, the NIMR director, had earlier said the virus appears to be locally transmitted. The health ministry has not established the epidemiology, but suspect the outbreak was started by an infected tourist.

The first person to test positive on September 21 was an 85-year-old woman with no travel history from the densely-populated Shastri Nagar neighbourhood.

Eleven pregnant women are among those infected with zika virus, according to a report in HT. Earlier, a NIMR official had said that 30 of the total cases were doing fine after treatment.

The department has also issued an advisory for pregnant women staying outside Shastri Nagar not to visit the area. Fogging and other anti-larvae activities are being carried out in the Shastri Nagar area to prevent the spread of the virus.

Epidemiologists say it’s critical to contain mosquito breeding over the next week to ensure the infection doesn’t spread to create new epicentres.

A control room has been activated at the National Centre for Disease Control to monitor the situation.

The number of monitoring teams in Jaipur has been increased from 50 to 170 and a special isolation ward has been created at the Hira Bagh Training Centre to treat the Zika virus-affected patients.

The state government has been provided information, education and communication (IEC) material prepared to create awareness about Zika virus and prevention strategies.

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day.

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Zika has been reported in 86 countries, with the biggest outbreak occurring in Brazil in 2015. It was first reported in India in Gujarat in February, 2017, when three people tested positive in Ahmedabad, which was followed by one case in Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu in July of the same year.

Signs and symptoms

The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is estimated to be 3–14 days. The majority of people infected with Zika virus do not develop symptoms. Symptoms are generally mild including fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache, and usually last for 2–7 days.

Complications of Zika virus disease

According to World Health Organisation, Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other congenital abnormalities in the developing fetus and newborn. Zika infection in pregnancy also results in pregnancy complications such as fetal loss, stillbirth, and preterm birth.

Zika virus infection is also a trigger of Guillain-Barré syndrome, neuropathy and myelitis, particularly in adults and older children.

Transmission

Zika virus is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti, in tropical and subtropical regions. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Zika virus is also transmitted from mother to foetus during pregnancy, through sexual contact, transfusion of blood and blood products, and organ transplantation.

Diagnosis

Infection with Zika virus may be suspected based on symptoms of persons living in or visiting areas with Zika virus transmission and/or Aedes mosquito vectors. A diagnosis of Zika virus infection can only be confirmed by laboratory tests of blood or other body fluids, such as urine or semen.

Treatment

There is no treatment available for Zika virus infection or its associated diseases.

Symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually mild. People with symptoms such as fever, rash, or arthralgia should get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.

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