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Learn About the Silent Spreader of the Zika Virus

© AP Photo / Manish SwarupA municipal worker fumigates an alley in an impoverished area to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
A municipal worker fumigates an alley in an impoverished area to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in New Delhi, India, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. - Sputnik India, 1920, 19.12.2022
After a spike in Zika infections last year, only a few cases of the disease have been reported in December so far, despite an overall surge in the dengue and chikungunya vector-borne diseases.
A five-year-old girl from the Raichur district in India’s Karnataka state was diagnosed with the Zika Virus Disease (ZVD or ZIKV) last week.
Earlier this month, a 67-year-old man from Maharashtra state’s Nashik district also tested positive for the disease.
In most cases, identifying Zika is a difficult task, because the disease is spread by Aedes mosquito bites, which is also the primary source of the spread of dengue and chikungunya. What's more, according to the World Health Organization, around 80% of Zika cases are asymptomatic.

“[In many cases], it is difficult to differentiate between those diseases because the symptoms are the same. The patient gets a high-grade fever, pain in joints, muscles, and abdomen; and rashes on the skin. The only non-clinical way to differentiate Zika from dengue and chikungunya is by observing the rash on the skin which further needs an experienced clinician to differentiate the disease,” Dr. Mukund Singh, consultant internal medicine, Asian Fidelis Hospital in Faridabad, told Sputnik.

Some time ago, the clinical diagnosis of Zika was a big challenge due to the lack of RTPCR tests.
“Definitive diagnosis of Zika virus infection requires RTPCR test which is done by using a blood sample. It used to be very challenging to diagnose Zika virus infection due to the unavailability of RTPCR tests. But in the last few years, after the COVID-19 pandemic, RTPCR test is more and more readily available everywhere, even in smaller cities, in our country,” Dr. Singh added.

How Zika Spread Globally

Since its discovery in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947, several outbreaks of ZVD have been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
After an outbreak in Brazil in 2015-16, the diseases spread like wildfire, triggering a major epidemic.
In the past few years, the presence of the Zika virus has been found in several Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, and the union territory of Delhi.

“In recent years, dengue and chikungunya are spreading to smaller villages and towns from the big metropolitan cities of our country. It is because of the spread of the Aedes mosquitoes which carry dengue, chikungunya as well as Zika viruses, leading to [it being] widespread across India,” Dr. Singh stated.

The symptoms of Zika infection usually last for a week to 10 days, and in most cases, the patient recovers after hospitalization and receiving proper treatment.

Can Zika Be Fatal?

While there is a very low mortality rate among those who contract Zika, the biggest concern is the possible development of complications, especially in pregnant women and their babies, as well as those with poor immunity.
“The infection can further trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare disorder that affects the nerve system), neuropathy (damage to the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord), and myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord). It’s all the more dangerous for pregnant women as if they get infected, the fetus can also be affected and cause stillbirth, miscarriage, malformation, or deformity. Screening the fetus for the Zika infection is also difficult,” Dr. Meenakshi Banerjee, gynecologist at Rainbow Hospital, Delhi, said.
Experts say that a lot of Indian pharmaceutical companies and scientists have been making efforts to develop a Zika vaccine in India.
“The main aim should be the prevention of Zika virus and for that, we have to work at the social level in every village, town, and city to stop the breeding of mosquitoes. Right from ensuring that there is no water logging to frequent fumigation in the area. Use of mosquito repellent and putting mosquito nets at doors and windows can also help,” Dr. Banerjee told Sputnik.