After swine flu, Ebola virus, Zika Virus has created another fear among mankind. Recently India caught with three people, including a pregnant woman were found infected with mosquito-borne Zika virus in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.
The cases were picked up during random monitoring and surveillance at the BJ Medical College in Ahmedabad, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The patients were a 64-year-old man, a 34-year-old new mother, and a 22-year-old pregnant woman.
The first infection was detected in February last year, the second in November and the latest one this January. No new cases of the disease have since been found.
What is Zika?
The virus is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya. Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947.
In pregnant women, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly – unusually small heads – and other brain abnormalities in babies in the womb. The infection can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes paralysis.
There is no treatment or vaccine for the Zika infection.
The virus can show symptoms such as mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or a headache and body ache. But only about 20% of patients show symptoms that usually last up to a week.
Why should India fear Zika?
It is strongly suspected to cause birth defects and neurological problems in newborns and as birth rate is high in the country special care needs to be taken. Since India provides fertile climate for the aedes aegypti mosquito to grow and multiply, there is the potential of an outbreak situation in the country.
The mosquito also carries dengue and chikungunya viruses that claim 100s of lives and infect 1000s every year. There could be a lack of population immunity against the virus in newly affected areas.
- No vaccine exists to prevent Zika. So try to stay far from the mosquitoes.
- Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during the day and night.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
- Zika can pass through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners.
During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.