This Article is From Jan 29, 2016

Zika Virus Becomes Global Concern: How Vulnerable Is India?

Zika Virus Becomes Global Concern: How Vulnerable Is India?

Aedes Aegypti mosquitos are photographed in a laboratory of control of epidemiological vectors in San Salvador. (AFP Photo)

New Delhi: The Zika virus, blamed for causing deformities in new born children, is "spreading explosively" and could affect as many as four million people in the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

In Brazil, women, infected with the Zika virus - a relatively unknown mosquito-borne viral disease - have reportedly given birth to children with unusually small heads. According to the WHO, last year, the virus was detected in the Americas. As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region.

Currently, the virus is largely circulating in Latin America, but through travelers it has also been reported in Maldives and Thailand. India offers a similar environment to the virus. Infection of the Zika virus happens when the Aedes mosquito bites a person - the same mosquito also transmits the Dengue virus and is found widely in India.

The Indian Medical Association has issued an advisory asking pregnant women to avoid visiting Latin America. India has the diagnostic kits but treatment still eludes the world.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi says, "India also needs to be vigilant, as of now we have tested a few specimens from patients with a dengue like illness and so far we have not found any positive result for Zika virus."

The Zika virus presents symptoms very similar to dengue with fever, rash, joint pain and redness in eyes; usually it passes off as a mild infection.

Dr Swaminathan explains "There is no specific drug for the treatment for Zika virus and neither is there a vaccine."

The best prevention is to control the spread of the Aedes mosquito that breeds in clean water and spreads the Zika virus. India is keeping a close watch on the situation as it unfolds on the Zika virus. India offers a fertile ground for the virus to breed, but as of now no Zika virus case has been reported in the country.