Where's the Zika virus headed next? India, says Lancet study

Written by: Shalini Sharma

New Delhi, Sept 2: India is among the countries most vulnerable to the Zika virus, an outbreak of which was identified in Brazil last year and had threatened the Rio Olympics, as the virus begins to rapidly spread around the world, a study by the respected medical journal, Lancet, says.

Scientists trying to predict the future path of Zika say that 2.6 billion people living in Asia and Africa could be at risk of infection, based on a new analysis of travel, climate and mosquito patterns in those regions, the Associated Press reported.

Zika Mosquito

Some of the most vulnerable countries include India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the study published online on Thursday says.

Experts caution that the study could overestimate the number of people at risk because they don't know whether Zika had already landed in some of these countries in the past and allowed people to develop immunity. More than two-thirds of people infected with Zika never get sick, and symptoms are mild for those who do, so surveillance systems may have missed cases.

Although Zika was first identified in 1947, the virus wasn't considered a major health threat until a major outbreak in Brazil last year revealed that Zika can lead to severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected.

In February, the World Health Organization declared the spread of Zika a global emergency, and epidemics have been sparked in at least 70 countries. In the last few weeks, it has sickened more than 100 people in Singapore, 15 of them Indians and 21 Chinese, and has started spreading in Florida, US.

Zika is mostly spread by a specific species of tropical mosquito, but it can also be spread by sex and through blood transfusions.

Researchers hope their new study will help officials plan ahead to possibly avoid some of the worst effects of Zika.

"For countries with a finite amount of resources, this may help them use those resources as efficiently as possible," said Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious diseases physician and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, the study's senior author.

To figure out where Zika might gain a future foothold, researchers examined patterns of people travelling from infected regions in the Americas to Africa and Asia and combined that with an assessment of local conditions, including mosquito populations. They used the spread of a related virus, dengue, as a model for Zika since the same mosquito species transmits both diseases. Dengue is not spread by sex, like Zika, but mosquitoes are responsible for the vast majority of Zika cases globally.

Here are a few guidelines from the health ministry that you should follow to keep Zika at bay:

  1. Prevent mosquito breeding around houses.
  2. Use mosquito repellents to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  3. Non-essential travel to the affected countries in the Latin American region and the Caribbean should be deferred/cancelled.
  4. Pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant should defer/cancel their travel to the affected areas.
  5. All travellers to the affected countries/areas should strictly follow individual protective measures, especially during the day, to prevent mosquito bites (use of mosquito repellant cream, electronic mosquito repellants, use of bed nets, and dress that appropriately covers most of the body parts).
  6. Persons with co-morbid conditions (diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory illness, immunity disorders, etc.) should seek advice from the nearest health facility, prior to travel to an affected country.
  7. Travellers who complain of fever within two weeks of return from an affected country should report to the nearest health facility.
  8. Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention about their travel during ante-natal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Zika is a vector-borne disease caused by zika virus and is a native of Africa and Asia. Unlike dengue and malaria, the zika virus can spread through body fluids like semen and blood and also from a pregnant woman to the child. As WHO (World Health Organization) declares zika a global emergency, here are six symptoms of the viral infection you should know.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Fever: Just like malaria and dengue, which are caused by aedes mosquitoes, zika also results in fever. In most cases, it is manifested as high fever (102 degree F) that could last for two to seven days.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Headache: As the zika virus is transmitted through blood, it can lead to severe headache which usually lasts for more than three days.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Red eyes: In some cases, the disease can manifest as conjunctivitis or red eyes. So if you experience this symptom that fails to subside within a day or two, consult your doctor.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Skin rash: One of the classic symptoms of dengue, skin rash is also a sign of zika viral disease. It usually develops after two-three days of infection and also leads to pale skin.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Fatigue: If you are feeling fatigued, coupled with high fever and see no improvement even after three days, it could indicate zika fever. Rather than ignoring, it's wise to consult a doctor immediately.

Zika fever: 6 symptoms of zika viral disease everyone should know!

Muscle/joint pain: Also known as arthalgia, muscle and joint pain might signify zika infection. It mainly affects the muscles and joints of the legs and arms, especially the thigh and elbow region.


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