In what comes as much relief to Indian population, it has now been confirmed by government-run laboratories that the Zika virus strain in circulation in Rajasthan is not the one that causes complications like microcephaly in new born babies. Microcephaly is a birth defect where babies are born with extremely small heads and is known to be linked with pregnant mothers getting infected with Zika.
Zika virus is spread through the sting of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, Maharashtra sequenced five Zika virus strains collected at different time points of the Jaipur, Rajasthan’s outbreak.
“Advanced molecular studies of Zika virus strains, carried out through Next Generation Sequencing suggest that the known mutations linked to fetal microcephaly and high transmissibility of Zika virus in Aedes mosquitoes are not present in the current Zika virus strain that has affected Rajasthan,” said a press statement released by Union Health Ministry on Saturday.
However, the Government is maintaining high vigil of the possibility of adverse pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to Zika virus as the strain may mutate in future or some other unknown or host factors may play a role in microcephaly or other birth defects.
Union Health Ministry is reviewing the situation on a daily basis. Around 2,000 samples were tested for Zika virus positivity, of which 159 positive cases have been confirmed. Adequate numbers of testing kits have been provided to the Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories. The State Government has been supplied with Information, Education and Commumication (IEC) material prepared to create awareness about Zika virus disease and its prevention strategies. All pregnant mothers in the area are being monitored through NHM. Extensive surveillance and vector control measures are being taken up in the area as per protocol by the state government, the Ministry informed.
Zika virus disease is an emerging disease currently being reported by 86 countries worldwide. Symptoms of Zika virus disease are similar to other viral infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache.
In India, the first outbreak was reported in Ahmedabad in January and February 2017 and second outbreak in July, 2017 from Krishnagiri District in Tamilnadu. Both these outbreaks were later contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.
The disease continues to be on disease surveillance radars of Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern since the World Health Organization’s notification was issued in November 18, 2016.