FAQ: What is Zika virus? How to prevent the infection and more

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The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is usually borne by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquitoes.

FAQ: What is Zika virus? How to prevent the infection and more
  • Kerala Health Minister Veena George confirms three more cases of Zika virus infections on July 11.      
  • Zika virus can cause microcephaly, a defect where the head of an infant is smaller compared to body.
  • Centre sends team to Kerala and NIV Pune supplied 2,100 test kits. 
  • A total of 18 cases of Zika virus (H5N1 virus), including a 10-month-old baby among the infected, have been reported in Kerala after the state’s health minister Veena George confirmed three more cases on July 11. The latest cases include a 22-month-old baby, a 46-year-old man and a 29-year-old health worker, says a government press release.
    Here are some facts associated with the Zika virus.
    What is the Zika virus?
    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus (same as malaria) that is usually borne by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquitoes. These mosquitoes also transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
    Zika was first identified in Africa in 1947 but the WHO declared a public health emergency caused by the Zika virus in 2016.
    How do people get infected with Zika?
    People get infected with Zika through the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, through sexual contact with an infected person. It can be transmitted via body fluids. A pregnant woman can infect her foetus.
    What are the health problems associated with Zika?
    This disease is not very lethal as it is likely to kill around one percent of the infected people. The Zika virus causes neurological disorders impacting the brain and spinal cord.
    Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with microcephaly and other congenital malformations, known as congenital Zika syndrome. Infection with Zika virus is also associated with other pregnancy related complications like premature birth and miscarriage.
    An increased risk of neurologic complications is associated with Zika virus infection in adults and children, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, neuropathy and myelitis.
    In 2017, Brazil reported close to 3,900 suspected cases of microcephaly and 1,708 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
    Should I be concerned if I am traveling to a Zika prone area?
    Yes, one should be concerned as it is a mosquito borne infection that can be easily transmitted if relevant precautions are not taken. Globally the regions, which witnessed Zika virus infections or outbreaks over the years were Uganda and Tanzania (1952); Asia (1969 to 1983); western Africa (1960s-80s); Pacific Island of Yap (2007); French Polynesia, Easter Island, Cook Islands and new Caledonia (2013-14); Brazil (2015); and El Salvador (2016).
    What is the history of Zika cases in India?
    India's first Zika virus infection was confirmed in Ahmedabad in May, 2017.  In 2018, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh together reported over 200 Zika virus cases. Rajasthan reported a total of 159 cases, including 63 pregnant women whereas Madhya Pradesh reported 127 cases with 42 infected pregnant women.
    What precautions can we take? What to do if we are infected?
    People should stay covered during the day to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. It is important to note that the Aedes mosquito is active in the daytime. They should use good-quality mosquito repellents and drink plenty of fluids.
    People should not allow water to collect outside or inside their homes to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
    Rest and medication (analgesics for pain and fever) are the best remedies for this disease.
    What are the symptoms of Zika?
    The early sign of infection is flu. However, it is difficult to detect. Subsequently, patients get fever, headache, running nose and persistent rashes for seven days. Some patients also get sore eyes, muscle and joint pain.
    How is Zika diagnosed?
    Zika virus is diagnosed using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever (WHO).
    A diagnosis of Zika virus infection can only be confirmed by laboratory tests of blood or other body fluids, such as urine or semen.
    The Zika virus triplex kit enables the simultaneous detection and differentiation of RNA from dengue virus (DENV), chikungunya virus (CHIKV), and Zika virus (ZIKV) in urine and serum. A singleplex kit is also available for the testing of samples for Zika virus only.
    What should pregnant women do?
    Pregnant women living in areas with Zika transmission or who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection should seek medical attention for laboratory testing and other clinical care.
    How is Kerala handling the Zika virus cases?
    Kerala has been on high alert since July 8 after the first case of Zika virus was reported in a 24-year-old pregnant woman.
    The Union government on July 9 sent a six-member team to monitor the situation and support the state government.
    According to the state health department, 2,100 test kits were received from National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. NIV has also recommended confirming Zika virus infection through a blood test, which takes around eight hours.
    The state government has arranged testing facilities at Thiruvananthapuram (1,000 kits, of which 500 are triplex and 500 are singleplex), Thrissur (300 kits) and Kozhikode (300 kits), medical colleges and also at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) unit at Alappuzha (500 kits).
    Hospitals and doctors have been asked by the state government to test patients, especially pregnant women, who have symptoms such as fever, rashes and body pain.
     
     

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