Zika outbreak in Jaipur: How it spreads and harms?

In what is India’s first large outbreak of the Zika virus, more than 130 cases were detected in Jaipur in October, 2018.

What is Zika?
Zika is a viral infection (family: Flaviviridae) which occurs through the bite of several different species of Aedes mosquitoes, including the Aedes aegypti. The virus was first isolated from a rhesus monkey in Uganda in the Zika forest, near the western shore of Lake Victoria, in 1947, and hence the name.

How does Zika spreads?
Besides the vector-host route, zika was also confirmed to be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Recent reports indicate that the virus may also be able to transmit through blood transfusion.

What are the symptoms?
The incubation period of zika virus disease is unclear, but is approximated to be 3 -14 days. The symptoms and treatment of zika virus infection are similar to that of a mild dengue infection.

How dangerous is Zika?
The virus is generally mild and requires no specific treatment at all. No vaccine is available for it and it can only be prevented by checking mosquito breeding and avoiding mosquito bite. Severe forms can lead to microcephaly and Guillain–Barré syndrome. Microcephaly refers to abnormal smallness of the head, associated with incomplete brain development. Guillain–Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which body’s immune system attacks nerves, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis. In 2017, following a study on Brazil’s confirmed cases, the US National Institutes of Health study estimated the fatality rate at 8.3%.

What should people do to protect themselves from the latest outbreak?
People in the affected areas are advised to stay indoors. Precautions are generally the same as for other dengue — use mosquito nets and repellents — apart from taking steps to prevent sexual transmission.

Is there a protocol that governments follow when Zika cases are reported?
Governments take mosquito control measures such as spraying of pesticides, use of repellents etc. Because of the possibility of congenital abnormalities and sexual transmission, there is also focus on contraceptives. WHO requires countries to counsel sexually active men and women on the matter to minimise chances of conception at the time of an outbreak.

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