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India takes up Zika virus threat with health experts

Published : Jan 10, 2016, 1:27 am IST
Updated : Jan 10, 2016, 1:27 am IST

After swine flu and Ebola, a lesser-known-Zika virus is the new global threat that has put many countries on alert.

After swine flu and Ebola, a lesser-known-Zika virus is the new global threat that has put many countries on alert. With international experts raising concerns over its possible spread being similar to dengue and chikungunya, the Union health ministry has called health experts from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program-me and National Centre for Disease Control to closely follow the trend so as to keep the virus at bay.

“The virus is posing threat to all the countries around the world. While, as of now, there is no case that has been reported from India. We are examining the reports. The matter will be taken up with public health experts on Monday after which we will indicate our appropriate response,” said a senior official in the health ministry.

So far, the outbreaks of Zika virus — in which babies are born with unusually small heads — have been reported in central and south America. Locally transmitted (autochthonous) cases of Zika have been detected in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne arbovirus that was first isolated from a rhesus monkey in Uganda in 1947, and caused sporadic human infections in some African and Asian countries, with usually mild symptoms of fever, rash, and arthralgia. In 2007, it caused an epidemic on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia, then spread to many countries in Oceania, before arriving in the Americas in 2014-15, probably via Easter Island.

With an estimated 4,40,000-1,30,0000 cases currently in Brazil alone, “Zika virus could be following in the footsteps of dengue and chikungunya, which are also transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Given that an outbreak anywhere is potentially a threat everywhere, now is the time to step up all efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to Zika virus,” said the Lancet. So far, the Phylogenetic analyses show that the strains of Suriname belong to the Asian genotype, and are closely related to the strain that was circulating in French Polynesia in 2013. Last month, the ministry of health in Brazil reported a twenty-fold annual increase in cases of newborn babies with microcephaly in the northeastern region of the country. While a causal link between Zika virus in the mother and microcephaly in the newborn baby is yet to be firmly established.

Other congenital neurological anomalies and an increased frequency of Guillain-Barré syndrome linked to Zika virus have also been reported.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi