After three cases of Zika were found in Ahmedabad, India loses its identity as a no-Zika country. All the three people who’ve been diagnosed with Zika have no-travel history to Zika-affected country. This clearly indicates that the Zika virus was prevalent in the area. A 1954 report suggests that Zika virus could have circulated in India in the past.
What is Zika?
Zika is a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito and can also be transmitted sexually. The symptoms includes:
- Mild fever
- Skin rash
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
The symptoms usually last for 2-7 days.
How does Zika cause complications?
Zika disease is very mild. But Zika during pregnancy can give birth to a serious disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nervous system disorder caused by the patient’s own immune system attacking nerve cells. It causes muscle weakness and sometimes, paralysis. Zika infection in pregnant women can cause congenital defects in the infant like microcephaly, which means the brain of the baby is smaller and underdeveloped.
Has Zika always been hiding in India?
The cases of Zika in Ahmedabad were reported to WHO but more than four months after their detection. The first case of Zika was reported in January 2016. Now the question arises, has Zika always been hiding in India for all this while?
Zika virus belongs to a family of viruses called Flavivirus. This virus has been detected in mosquitoes found in equatorial Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. Despite the fact, India wasn’t included in WHO’s list of countries with evidence of Zika before 2015.
A report dating back to 1954 suggests that Zika virus could have circulated in India in the past. The researchers reported the detection of antibodies against Zika virus in samples collected from people in Bharuch district, then in Bombay and now in Gujarat and Nagpur. This indicates that people tested have developed immunity against the disease.
The reports are inconclusive as virologists point out, an antibody test is not as accurate as the polymerase chain reaction test, which is now used for genetic analysis and identification of viruses.
Another analysis published in 2016 by American Society for Microbiology points out the presence of Zika in India in 1952, which indicates the possibility of virus may having been circulating and having become endemic here. So the possibility of the virus been present in India cannot be ruled out.
How to protect yourself from Zika virus?
- Stay in places with air conditioning or keep the windows and doors screened with mesh.
- Remove the sources of stagnant water, as it can become the breeding ground of mosquitoes.
- The mosquitoes bearing the Zika virus are more likely to bite during the daytime. Use proper mosquito repellent during daytime as well.
- Wear full-sleeved and lighter-coloured clothes to prevent mosquito bites.
- Avoid using scents and fragrant products.
- Sleep under a mosquito net.