Outbreak of Zika Virus: How to prevent?


Current outbreak of  Zika  in Rajasthan is a warning for another potential disaster. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the Union health ministry for a report on the localised outbreak of Zika after 22 people tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause birth defects in unborn babies, in Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur.

The Union health ministry, in a statement on Monday, confirmed the Zika cases in Jaipur so far through the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) surveillance system.

About Zika Virus- summary

  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific

India needs to be particularly conscious about the spread of the disease since the mosquito that carries the virus actually thrives in the country. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito whose bite transmits the disease is the same as the one that transmits dengue and chikungunya, which is widely prevalent in India. With the temperature rising across India, it becomes more important to take precautions and not let the Aedes Aegypti mosquito breed.

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.

Symptoms

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  one 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 egypti mosquito to grow and multiply, there is the potential of an outbreak situation in the country.

How can you avoid the virus?

Check mosquito breeding in and around your house. The mosquito that carries Zika virus – Aedes aegypti – breeds in fresh water so don’t let water collect in birdbaths, planters, non-used bottles, containers, discarded waste, tyres etc.

Use mosquito repellants such as creams, gels, electronic mosquito repellents, patches, incense sticks and bed nets. Grow plants that are known to repel mosquitoes such as citronella, basil, lemon grass, lavender, mint, rosemary etc.

Take special precautions during the day as Aedes aegypti is a day-biting mosquito and dress appropriately that covers most of the body parts.

WHO risk assessment

There has been  evidence on the circulation of the virus in India. Low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future. Efforts to strengthen surveillance should be maintained in order to better characterize the intensity of the viral circulation and geographical spread, and monitor Zika virus related complications. Zika virus is known to be circulating in South East Asia Region. WHO encourages Member states to report similar findings to better understand the global epidemiology of Zika virus.

The risk of further spread of Zika virus to areas where the competent vectors, the Aedes mosquitoes, are present is significant given the wide geographical distribution of these mosquitoes in various regions of the world. WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conduct risk assessment based on the latest available information.

WHO advice

Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people. During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.

 

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