Zika Virus – A Probable Nemesis?

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“Zika” is a word that doesn’t sound like a threat in any sense, in fact it sounds pretty entertaining, right? Trust me when I say it’s not. “Zika” is the name of a virus which can lead to an epidemic soon if not strictly controlled. Zika is a mosquito- transmitted virus which can lead to fatal symptoms such as high fever, acute body breaking, joint pains, rashes, and red eyes. And the worst part of the disease is that it is still incurable. However, the effect can be minimized from normal treatment of fever and joint pain. Doctors also commend drinking aplenty of water to control the fever. In the end, prevention is the best cure for this disease. It is caused by the same genre of mosquitoes which cause dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile disease, the Aedes group of mosquitoes. The Zika virus was discovered in 1950s and named after the Zika Forest near Lake Victoria in Uganda. It is known to be first found in a captive monkey in 1947 and since then has spread across Africa and now recently spreading across Asia and South America.

Zika virus is particularly dangerous to pregnant women since the pregnant women infected through Zika virus give birth to mentally and physically challenged infants. The babies born are of congenital disorder called microcephaly because the “foetus brain” ceases to develop normally. They are born with smaller heads in comparison to a normal healthy child. Currently, there is neither vaccine nor treatment of Zika virus. Although, there is no definite evidence available confirming the connection between Zika virus and microcephaly but Brazil has experienced a strong rise in microcephaly and Zika transmission hence automatically reflecting the connection between them. The disease can also be transferred by blood transfusion and having sex with an infected partner.

Since last year the situation in Brazil has been quite alarming. Till last October, where the country has been experiencing 200 births related to microcephaly, has now reported around 4000 cases of pregnant women effected with Zika virus. Seeing the alarming rise of cases leading to the birth of deformed children, government has advised women to avoid pregnancy till 2018.

The Zika virus has now moved beyond the boundaries of Brazil to other countries like Yalp Island and French Polynesia, which were also found affected in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Hence many foetuses reporting such cases were aborted to avoid rise of population suffering from mental deformity. Other infected countries are Latin America, Colombia, Caribbean nations, Ecuador, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.

You must be thinking whether this virus can hit India or not? Well, India has been extremely vulnerable to mosquito transmitted diseases since many years now. The panic of Dengue and Chikungunya affecting thousands in the past few years cannot be avoided.

Although India hasn’t reported any case of Zika yet but all it will take is just one infected person travelling from an affected country to walk out and unintentionally spread the disease in India, which if not controlled, may easily give rise to an epidemic on a large scale.

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Manisha Bhatia

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