Everything you need to know about India?s first large outbreak of the Zika virus

By Prarthana Mitra

In what is regarded as the first widespread outbreak of Zika virus, around 80 people in Rajasthan have contracted the congenital abnormality-causing virus since September 23.  Carried and spread by mosquitoes, the virulent strain which targets only pregnant women and can be transmitted genetically and sexually was first discovered and so far has been contained in state capital Jaipur.

Authorities respond expediently

The concerned authorities have joined hands to monitor and combat the potentially grave situation. Health Minister J P Nadda held a review meeting in the national capital on Tuesday, while the Rajasthan Health Department continues to survey and issue preventive measures. They are doing house-to-house surveys and noting the number of pregnant women in every household belonging to affected areas. Other drives include spraying of pesticides, intensive fumigation and distribution of repellents and contraceptives.

Nadda addressed the press saying there was no shortage of medicines and testing kits for Zika virus in Rajasthan, to be disbursed by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s cabinet as and when required. According to official reports, 330 teams have been deployed, over 4.34 lakh people and 2.04 lakh breeding sites checked, of which over 74,000 had traces of mosquito larvae.

Origin of the disease

First identified in 1947 in Uganda, cases of Zika virus which causes deformities in children born of infected mothers has been detected sporadically since the 1960’s. The first proper outbreak occurred in 2007 in the Island of Yap in the Pacific, but it gained international attention after the microcephaly epidemic in Brazil in 2015, when new-born infants were found to have small and underdeveloped brains. The virus also reportedly led to the rise of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death, according to WHO.

Symptoms of Zika infection

The incubation period for diseases caused by Zika virus can range from anything between 3 and 14 days. Although most symptoms go unnoticed, visible ones include flu, fever, muscle ache, headache, amongst others. Additional symptoms can include rashes like in dengue and at times even conjunctivitis. The WHO says these symptoms are treatable with pain and fever suppressants, rest and fluid intake. The Rajasthan Health Department has asked people to stay indoors, use mosquito repellents and nets, and take further precaution to prevent sexual transmission.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius