Zika Virus in India, but don’t panic

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Jul 2017 10:45:08

Staff Reporter,


Four cases of Zika Virus infection have been reported in the country so far, the Government informed the RajyaSabha on July 25 this year. Three laboratory confirmed cases, including that of a pregnant woman, were reported from Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad district in Gujarat. The fourth case was from Krishnagiri district of Tamilnadu. But Indians should not feel panic, they have to be careful.

World Health Organisation on February 1, 2016 has declared Zika virus as Public Health Emergency of International Concern PHEIC. The illness itself is mild and by and large does not need major medical intervention. However, the neurological consequences are devastating, informs Dr Raad Shakir, President of World Federation of Neurology.

The biggest danger from the Zika virus is to pregnant women and their foetuses. Zika infections in pregnant women can lead to congenital defects in their newborns such as microcephaly, in which the brain of the infant is small and underdeveloped. Long term disabilities with convulsions associated with severe psychomotor retardation are the expected consequences. These children will need lifelong neurological care. In addition to microcephaly, other neurological complications like Hydrocephalus, intracerebral calcification and other clinical and radiological brain anomalies are also seen, mentioned Dr Amilton Barreira, Professor of Neurology, Sao Paulo University, Brazil and Secretary General of Tropical Neurology Group of World Federation of Neurology. Brazil was worst hit during the recent epidemic with report of 1.7 lakh cases. About 3500 children born to Zika positive mothers were observed to have microcephaly in Brazil within span of 4 months from October 2015 to January 2016.

Zika is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of a day time active AedesAegypti mosquito , and can also be sexually transmitted by men to their sexual partners. Dengue, Chikungunya and Japanese Encephalitis have created havoc in the country in recent years. Zika virus is also from same Flavivirus group and transmitted by same mosquito.

The virus was first isolated in1947 from a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda, near lake victoria. In 2014 the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then to Easter Iland and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America,the Caribbean,and South America, where Zika outbreak has reached pandemic levels. Those infected with the virus may have mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain or headache. The illness is usually mild and the symptoms normally last for 2-7 days. 80 % people infected with virus do not have any complaints.

Zika infections have also been linked to increased incidences of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nervous system disordercausing weakness in limbs. Some patients also have difficulty in breathing and swallowing . 25 % patients require support of ventilator to tide over acute illness and can die if they don't get proper treatment.. The treatment of the condition is use of IV Immunoglobulin or Plasma exchange. This treatment is very costly and therefore national governments,WHO, the UN ,and other aid agencies should coordinate to support patients in resource limited poor and developing countries, mentions Dr Raad Shakir.

Currently, there is no effective treatment or vaccine against this virus. Hence, prevention is key with control of mosquito populations and prevention of mosquito bites says Dr. Chandrashekhar Meshram, President of Tropical Neurology Group of World Federation of Neurology.