Zika Virus Hits North Western Parts of India

Reepa Agrawal
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27 Nov, 2018

More than 100 cases of zika virus infection were detected in Rajasthan, north western state of India in October 2018. The virus has also spread to parts of adjoining state of Gujarat. This is the third outbreak in India, first was in January 2017 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and second was in July 2017 in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. The last two were controlled promptly. Zika virus was confirmed in blood and urine samples of patients by the NIV laboratory, Pune. Till now 22 pregnant women have also been confirmed to have the infection.

Zika virus infection is a vector borne disease and shares the same vector, Aedes aegypti which also transmits dengue and chikungunya viruses. Zika virus can get transmitted to the fetus and cause congenital brain malformations including microcephaly. The chances of transmission is highest during first trimester of pregnancy. One should also bear in mind that this virus can get transmitted through sexual contact, transfusion of blood and blood products and organ transplantation.

Time and again health department authorities have warned people against mosquito borne diseases and several measures including spraying of insecticides and checking for mosquito breeding sites in residential, industrial areas have been undertaken. Post this outbreak around 280 teams have been deployed to conduct door to door survey of more than 96,000 households in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan state.

Patients with this infection can experience symptoms like fever, malaise, conjunctivitis, rash and joint pains. It can be a mild disease or cause complications like myelitis and Guillian Barre syndrome. These complications are reported more in children. There is no specific antiviral drug against it but vaccines are in the pipeline.

Zika virus vaccine is being developed by Bharat biotech in India and is in Phase 2 of trial. Vaccines are also being developed by Emergent BioSolutions Inc and partner Valneva SE (VLA1601), Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. All these vaccines are in early trial phases and according to World Health Organization (WHO), there will be no proven vaccine available till 2020. Around 86 countries have witnessed Zika virus infection, the worst hit was Brazil in 2015. Hence, strict mosquito control measures is by far the most important preventive measure to prevent any further outbreak in the future.
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