India

against virus growth

Current reports of fresh outbreaks of Zika and Noro viruses are not of immediate concern to citizens in India.

Yusuf Akhtar

Current reports of fresh outbreaks of Zika and Noro viruses are not of immediate concern to citizens in India. However, knowing that the Aedes mosquito responsible for spreading the Zika virus is present in all states of India, there is a need to be vigilant. While the noro virus is spread purely through infected water and food, special attention needs to be paid to cleanliness to avoid it.

Viruses are ubiquitous particles. Most of these are not harmful and some, such as the corona virus, have proven to be very deadly. The Zika virus was first detected in normal monkeys in the Zika forests of Uganda in 1947 and then in humans a few years later. It seems to be spreading among people again. It was found in only fourteen humans in Asia and tropical Africa in the first sixty years after 1947. The first outbreak of Zika virus was observed in 2007 in Yap Island in the Pacific Ocean, a federal state in Micronesia. The Zika virus caught the world’s attention in March 2015 with the start of a major outbreak in Brazil, which then rapidly spread to several countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Microcephaly was found in many unborn babies from this outbreak. It is a condition that results in stunted brain development in the fetus. In addition, an increase in symptoms such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and neuropathy (nerve damage) was found in adults and children infected with the virus. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, a step before the disease was declared a pandemic. Between 2015 and 2017, there were approximately half a million suspected and 2.5 million confirmed Zika virus cases worldwide, including about 2,700 cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone. Outbreaks subsided somewhat by mid-2017, however, as of the end of 2019, Zika virus infections have been reported in at least eighty-seven countries around the world.

The earliest evidence of Zika virus in India is found in 1952–1953. Antibodies against Zika virus from humans were found in a comprehensive study conducted by the National Institute of Virology, Pune in different parts of India. The first direct cases of Zika virus infection in India were reported in 2017. Three persons were detected from Ahmedabad in January-February, 2017 and one case in July, 2017 in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. In 2018, 130 cases were registered in Madhya Pradesh and 159 in Rajasthan. At least nine cases were found in Kerala and twelve in Maharashtra in 2021. In October-November, 2021, around 140 cases have been confirmed so far from Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

The Zika virus is mainly spread by the Aedes mosquitoes that spread chikungunya and dengue. However, Zika virus can be spread from person to person during pregnancy from infected mother to fetus, through blood and other body fluids, and through organ transplantation as well as sexual contact. Most people with this infection do not develop any symptoms, while some may develop fever, rash, redness in the eyes, muscle and joint pain, headache and general tiredness.

It is a mild disease for all except pregnant women, while the fetus of an expectant mother can have congenital malformations, especially abnormal brain development, microcephaly and other associated neurologic diseases. Symptoms in this disease are similar to those of other common viral infections. If an area has been exposed to Zika virus, a person has recently traveled to such an area, or has had recent contact with a person with a confirmed infection, such persons are at increased risk of infection. There is currently no official vaccine or specific medicine available to prevent this disease.

In the next installment of these new viruses, just last week, Kerala’s Wayanad district recorded infections with norovirus, a highly contagious, stomach-causing virus. Severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, high fever, headache and body aches are some of the common symptoms of norovirus. It does not usually affect healthy adults in the same way as the Zika virus, but does not affect young children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, asthma, lung disease, heart disease, and Can be dangerous for severe stomach patients. Noro virus is easily spread by close contact with infected people or by touching contaminated surfaces. It can also be spread through food cooked or served by an infected person.

Current reports of fresh outbreaks of Zika and Noro viruses are not of immediate concern to citizens in India. However, knowing that the Aedes mosquito responsible for spreading the Zika virus is present in all states of India, there is a need to be vigilant. While the noro virus is spread purely through infected water and food, special attention needs to be paid to cleanliness to avoid it. India should use the data of recent disease outbreaks as an opportunity to strengthen the disease surveillance system and the system of health data recording and information dissemination in the country. The COVID-19 laboratory capacity developed over the past eighteen months needs to be optimally harnessed against other emerging viral infections.

However, the 2015 outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil was caused by a mutation in a special modified form of it, said to be of American ancestry, which originated from South Asian ancestry. It was thought to be responsible for the high incidence of microcephaly and other brain and nerve disorders. All previous outbreaks of Zika virus in India have been caused by Southeast Asian ancestry, and no cases of microcephaly have been reported from the country so far. However, there is a need for systematic research on the evolutionary trends in the DNA of viruses such as Zika and Noro, which can be done using the genetic sequencing (DNA sequencing) capability developed for the corona virus.

Given that Indian states have reported Zika and Noroviruses for the first time, there is a need for surveillance and equipping laboratories with testing kits. In areas where cases are reported, priority should be given to active case findings and surveillance and mosquito control measures, elimination of breeding sites and public awareness campaigns, especially for pregnant women. Along with this, whatever regulations are in place on the food items available in public places, they need to be strictly implemented.

It is also a time for ensuring coordinated action between state governments and municipal corporations to develop joint action plans against infectious diseases and share responsibilities for public health functions. Thus, there will always be a possibility of new infectious diseases emerging again and again. However, with a strong public health and sanitation system, epidemiological principles and efficient use of data, we can reduce the ill effects of these diseases.

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Shivam Bangwal

Shivam Bangwal is a young entrepreneur who is professional full time tech, travel and coding enthusiast with a post graduation degree of Master's of Computer Applications. He is a founder of Youthistaan, People News Chronicle, Branding Panther and Digital Leader.

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