EXPLAINER: What is Zika Virus, and How India is fighting it

(Image: Daily Express

The recent outbreak in Rajasthan has brought Indian health services on toes


By Naman Shah & Priyanka Minj

What is Zika virus and where did it originate?

The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection. During pregnancy, the virus can cause birth defects in newborn called microcephaly – a condition defined by small heads and brain damage, along with other defects like blindness, deafness, seizures and other congenital defects.

Zika virus can also lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of temporary paralysis in adults, that has links to other neurological complications.

Its name comes from the Ziika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. WHO says Zika has been reported in 86 countries.

How do people become infected?

The vertebrate hosts of the virus were primarily monkeys in a so-called enzootic mosquito-monkey-mosquito cycle, with only occasional transmission to humans.

  1. Mosquito-

Zika is primarily spread by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is active mostly in the daytime. It can also be sexually transmitted as well.

  1. Sexual-

Zika virus can be transmitted by vaginal and anal sex, and possibly by oral sex.

  1. Pregnancy-

The Zika virus can spread by vertical (or “mother-to-child”) transmission, during pregnancy or at delivery.

  1. Blood transfusion-

There have been two reported cases of Zika transmission through blood transfusions also.


What are the symptoms and how can you treat it?

The symptoms of Zika can resemble dengue fever, which may include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash. Symptoms generally last less than seven days. It has not caused any reported deaths during the initial infection

Zika has no treatment or vaccine.

When was Zika detected in India?

Zika virus was first detected in 15 May 2017, three laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus disease in Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat was reported by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India (MoHFW).

What are the ways to prevent it?

Pregnant women are advised not to travel in affected areas. Basic steps of precautions can be taken while travelling to high-risk areas, these includes repellant use, wearing long-sleeved clothes, the windows of the rooms should be fitted with screens which will prevent mosquitoes from entering.

Zika virus is also known to transmit sexually, so sexually active men and women should be encouraged for counselling and they are also offered a range of contraceptive methods. Men should wear condoms while having sex. And they should also make an informed choice when it comes to preganacy, like when to become pregnant.

Woman who are already preganant they should receive exact and proper information on the full extent of the existing laws.

How Indian health system has dealt with Zika?

Indian Health system has dealt with Zika virus through enhanced and community based surveillance. They tracked the disease through Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and through it’s community and hospital based data gathering mechanism.They also monitored the cases of microcephaly among the new borns.

Indian Council of Medical Research team was rushed  to Rajasthan to intensify vector control measures, after recent outbreak. Rapid Response Teams (RRts) have been activated at central and state survelliance units.

NCDC, Delhi and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, have the capacity to provide laboratory diagonsis of Zika virus disease in acute febrile stage.

Steps have been taken to ensure that general public is reassured and measures have been taken to reduce the panic among the public.

Non-governmental organisation have also taken an active participation to sensitize the public about the Zika virus disease.

The disease is under surveillance of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under WHO notification since November 18, 2016.

(Image: www.wur.nl)