Zika: Kerala, TN Urged to be Extra Vigilant

The Union health ministry, in its guidelines on Zika virus disease issued on Tuesday, urged Kerala and Tamil Nadu to be extra vigilant.

The ministry put out the guidelines on the back of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Zika a global emergency on Monday.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where dengue transmission is prevalent aided by weather conditions, should ensure extra vigil, the guidelines said. Zika and dengue are spread by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi has been made the nodal agency for investigation of an outbreak in any part of the country. NCDC and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune have the capacity to provide laboratory diagnosis of the Zika virus disease.

Potential to spread

According to the WHO, the virus has been reported in 22 countries and territories in the Americas. It has the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito which transmits it, a lack of immunity in the population in newly affected areas and the high volume of international travel.

As of now, the disease has not been reported in India. However, the mosquito that transmits Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, also transmits the dengue virus and is widely prevalent in India,” said the health ministry in a statement.

“Microcephaly in the newborn and other neurological syndromes (Guillain Barre Syndrome) have been found temporally associated with Zika virus infection. However, there are a number of genetic and other causes for microcephaly and neurological syndromes like Guillain Barre Syndrome,” the guidelines said.

Microcephaly comparison picture
Microcephaly comparison picture

Citizens, especially pregnant women, have been advised to avoid travelling to affected countries unless necessary.

Various wings of the ministry, such as the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and maternal and child health division will track cases of microcephaly among newborns and Guillain Barre Syndrome. They will alert the ministry if a high number of such cases are reported from a particular area.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda said he has asked for steps to be taken to prevent entry and transmission in India of the virus. “I have instructed all concerned to take steps for preventing entry and transmission of the virus in India. Sufficient diagnostic capacity and risk communication are also key elements of strategy on Zika virus. My ministry is fully geared to deal with Zika virus. No case reported in India. No need to panic,” he said in a series of tweets.

Zika facts

Zika virus disease is an emerging viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that is known to transmit infections like dengue and chikungunya.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare.

Symptoms
• About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
• The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
• The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
• Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
• Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
• Deaths are rare.

Diagnosis
• The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
• See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
• If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.
• Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.

Treatment
• No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.
• Treat the symptoms; get plenty of rest; drink fluids to prevent dehydration.

Prevention
• No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
• Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites.
• Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.

Zika facts source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA.

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