India has reported its first cases of Zika infections. The virus which is said to be present in the sub-continent for many decades, had not caused an infection during the last epidemic.
According to the Washington Post, three cases of infections were reported to the World Health Organization by the Indian government. These include two pregnant women. The Indian government has said the patients have recovered and there is no cause for panic. Zika is spread by the Aedes mosquito that is also a carrier of the Dengue virus, endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Though a mild infection, Zika became a public health concern in the recent past as it was linked to microcephaly in newborn.
“On 15 May 2017, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India (MoHFW) reported three laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus disease in Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat, State, India,” WHO stated.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informs that the U.S. recorded 5,300 Zika cases during 2015-2017. Of these, just over 200 cases were identified as local mosquito-borne infections, while over 5,000 cases were attributed to travel from Zika endemic regions. The U.S. continues to monitor the virus as the disease it causes has been notified. In most cases of infection, the illness is mild, but pregnant women with symptoms are scanned for birth defects, the CDC states.
“Microcephaly is a congenital malformation resulting in smaller than normal head size for age and sex. It has also been associated with other birth defects and neurologic conditions in children and adults. For infants diagnosed with microcephaly, head size correlates with underlying brain size. However, these measurements do not consistently predict long term sequelae. Neurologic sequelae may include seizures, vision or hearing problems, and developmental disabilities. Symptoms vary with the extent of brain disruption.”
The Indian cases of Zika infections are being attributed to local mosquitos, as the patients do not have a travel history linked to infection. Indian health authorities have also confirmed that there was no negative outcome in the pregnancy of one of the infected women.
“A 34-year-old female, delivered a clinically well baby at BJMC in Ahmedabad on 9 November 2016. During her hospital stay, she developed a low grade fever after delivery. No history of fever during pregnancy and no history of travel for the past three months was reported,” the WHO explained.
Zika was discovered in the forests of Uganda in 1947 and has spread to several parts of the world. Less than a decade after it was discovered, scientists found antibodies to the virus in India, suggesting that the virus had caused infections in the country. However, public health officials also believe that the population in the Indian sub-continent could have developed herd immunity to the virus as the country did not witness a case during the 2015 outbreak.
While India maintains a vigil for the virus, the WHO has called for strengthening of those measures anticipating more infections as Zika carrier, the Aedes mosquito, is endemic to the region.
“This report is important as it describes the first cases of Zika virus infections and provides evidence on the circulation of the virus in India. These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future. Efforts to strengthen surveillance should be maintained in order to better characterize the intensity of the viral circulation and geographical spread, and monitor Zika virus related complications. Zika virus is known to be circulating in South East Asia Region and these findings do not change the global risk assessment. WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction to India based on the current information available.”
The CDC and WHO continue to warn about travel to Zika endemic regions. Pregnant women or women contemplating having children have been asked to postpone travel to Zika affected countries besides mosquito bite prevention measures.
[Featured Image by auimeesri/Thinkstock]