Zika Virus Surge in India: Why Screening Pregnant Women is Important

Union Health Ministry Issues Advisory: States Urged to Heighten Vigilance; Focus on Screening Pregnant Women, Monitoring Fetal Growth, and Intensifying Vector Control to Combat Aedes Mosquito Spread
An electron microscopic image of Zika virus found in the cytoplasm of a neuron in a fetal brain.
An electron microscopic image of Zika virus found in the cytoplasm of a neuron in a fetal brain.(Representation Image: PHIL-CDC)

Why in News

Zika Virus Cases are taking a surge in India, with a total of 8 reported cases in Maharashtra till 2nd July 2024 from Pune, Kolhapur, and Sangamner.

Dr. Atul Goel, DGHS of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has issued an advisory to states in response to Zika virus cases in Maharashtra. States are urged to maintain constant vigilance by focusing on screening pregnant women, monitoring fetal growth of expecting mothers who tested positive for Zika, strengthening entomological surveillance, and intensifying vector control to combat Aedes mosquito spread.

Zika Virus: Causes, Transmission, and Background 

Zika is a viral disease like Dengue and Chikungunya. It is transmitted primarily by infected Aedes mosquitoes (which usually bite during the day), which are also responsible for the transmission of dengue, chikungunya, and urban yellow fever. It is mainly found in tropical and subtropical regions. 

The first case of Zika virus infection in India was reported in Gujarat in 2016.

Zika virus can be transmitted from a pregnant person to their fetus during pregnancy or around birth. It can also spread through sexual contact, blood transfusion, and possibly organ transplantation. While the Zika virus has been found in breast milk, transmission through breastfeeding is not confirmed. Additionally, certain human cells and tissue-based products, like umbilical cord blood and reproductive tissues, can harbor the virus months after infection.

Zika Virus Transmission: How It Spreads? (CDC)
Zika Virus Transmission: How It Spreads? (CDC)

Zika Virus: Why Screening Pregnant Women is Important

  • Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly (reduced head size) and other neurological consequences in the fetus, leading to serious health complications.

  • It is a known cause of congenital malformations in infants, including limb contractures, high muscle tone, eye abnormalities, and hearing loss, collectively referred to as congenital Zika syndrome.

  • Zika infection during pregnancy can result in serious birth defects and other pregnancy-related problems.

Zika Virus: Symptoms

Many individuals infected with the Zika virus will either remain asymptomatic or exhibit only mild symptoms. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of Zika virus disease (Zika) are:

  • Fever

  • Rash

  • Headache

  • Joint pain

  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

  • Muscle pain

In rare cases, it may cause Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and severe disease affecting the brain.

Zika Virus: What are the precautions? How to prevent and manage? What is the Treatment?

1. No Specific Treatment or Vaccine:

- No treatment or vaccine is currently available.

2. Symptom Management:

- Rest, fluids, and antipyretics/analgesics (e.g., acetaminophen).

- Avoid NSAIDs until dengue is ruled out to reduce bleeding risk.

- Seek medical care if symptoms worsen.

3. Pregnant Women:

- Should seek medical attention in areas with Zika transmission.

- Testing, information, counseling, and clinical care are recommended.

4. Prevention:

- Avoid mosquito bites using EPA-registered insect repellents and window screens.

- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

- Use condoms or abstain from sex to prevent sexual transmission.

- Biological males should use condoms or abstain for at least 3 months.

- Biological females should use condoms or abstain for at least 2 months.

5. Returning Travelers:

- Prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after returning from Zika-affected areas.

6. General Recommendations:

- Contact your healthcare provider if experiencing symptoms.

- Take over-the-counter acetaminophen for fever and pain.

- Discuss with your healthcare provider before taking additional medicines.

(Rehash/Pratiksha Jadhav/MSM)

An electron microscopic image of Zika virus found in the cytoplasm of a neuron in a fetal brain.
High Alert Issued in Karnataka After Mosquito Sample Tests Positive for Zika Virus