India has reported cases of the Zika virus, the World Health Organization said, adding that efforts should be made to strengthen surveillance.
The WHO said that on May 15 India’s health ministry reported three confirmed cases from the western state of Gujarat. Cases were detected during testing in February and November last year, while one was detected in January this year, according to the statement, which was released on Friday but did not gain public attention until Saturday.
A federal health ministry official said states were following standard protocols and there was “nothing to worry” about. The ministry had in March cited one confirmed case of Zika – from January of this year in Gujarat – while answering a question in India’s parliament.
“These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future,” the WHO said in the statement on its website.
“Zika virus is known to be circulating in South-East Asia Region and these findings do not change the global risk assessment.”
What is Zika Virus?
This virus was discovered in Zika forest, Uganda in 1947. It is usually transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, commonly Aedes specie known for biting during the day and night.
Up until 2015, Zika infections were few and far between. However, following the outbreak in Northern Brazil in May, 2015, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of infections and complications. In view of this, World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a public health emergency in February, 2016. According to a July, 2016 WHO update, 48 countries have been affected since 2015. In Brazil alone, up to 1,687 cases have been confirmed and cases of Zika related death have been reported.
Sadly, no cure or vaccines exist, though trials are ongoing.
How is it spread?
This is mainly through the bite of an infected mosquito. Unfortunately, persons bitten by an infected mosquito may not be aware of the presence of the virus in the blood until complications sets in. While the virus is in an individual’s bloodstream, mosquitoes bite and easily spread it to other persons.
Sex is another known means of transmission. Do you know that the virus may remain in semen for months? That means that an infected individual may still be able to spread the virus through sexual intercourse. Males and females are capable of passing the infections to their sexual partners[ii].
Furthermore, it is also possible to spread the virus via blood transfusions and from mother to child during pregnancy.
What are the common symptoms of Zika Infections?
Most people experience mild symptoms and are unaware of the infection. Commonly, fever, rash, joint pains, red eyes, muscle pain and vomiting may occur.
What are the common complications?
Thousands of babies have been born with birth defects following exposure to Zika virus during pregnancy. Microcephaly, a sign of incomplete brain development may occur. This is associated with intellectual disability. In some cases, Guillain Barre Syndrome, a condition characterized by muscle weakness and paralysis may occur.
How can you protect yourself from Zika Virus Infection?
Protect yourself from mosquito bites
- Insect repellent: Some repellents are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women to use. Those that contain DEET, oil-of-lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane–diol are relatively effective. However, avoid repellents on babies younger than 2 months. Wearing clothing that covers arms and legs may help protect babies and young children from insect bites.
- Protect your clothing: Treat items such as socks and tents with permethrin.
- Protect your home from mosquitoes – Use window and door screens. Insecticide treated mosquito bed nets may also be used. Ensure that any standing water near the house is removed. This disrupts the breeding of mosquitoes around the house.
Adhere to the ABC prevention strategy.Abstinence, Be faithful, Use a Condom to reduce the risk of becoming infected through sexual intercourse. This protects the individual against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmissible infections like gonorrhea and syphilis.