Zika is creeping up, this time in more states

NEW DELHI : Scientists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune have raised the alarm over the silent spread of the Zika virus in eight states and union territories where it had never been reported before, pinpointing local transmission of the disease in India.

According to an NIV research report published in Frontiers of Microbiology, the virus, spread by daytime active Aedes mosquitoes, has now been found in Delhi, Amritsar (Punjab), Aligarh & Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Jaipur & Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Pune ( Maharashtra), Ranchi (Jharkhand) Hyderabad (Telangana) and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), places with high population density.

Scientists fear the number of Zika cases will increase during monsoons, when vector-borne diseases start to crop up.

Scientists screened the samples from about 1,520 patients, 67 of whom were found to be Zika positive, three of which were co-infection. Zika and dengue co-infection was found in two cases, while in one case, Zika, chikungungya, and dengue were observed, but no history of interstate travel or contact with a Zika-positive traveler could be found.

Apart from this, samples from 121 patients were dengue positive, while 10 were chikungunya positive. Double positivity of dengue and chikungunya was observed in five cases.

All 67 positive Zika cases were symptomatic with fever and rash. Approximately 13.43% of patients were hospitalized, while 86.56% (58) of cases were treated on an outpatient basis. Four patients from Rajasthan (1), Telangana (2) and Kerala (1) experienced severe respiratory distress, respectively, one patient had seizures and one case of suspected mild microcephaly at birth was reported from Kerala.

According to scientists, the suspected case of microcephaly was discovered in Thiruvananthapuram, when a pregnant mother gave birth to a premature (35 weeks) girl weighing 1.68 kg (small for gestational age) in July last year. The baby was a suspected case of microcephaly as her head circumference at birth was 28 cm, which is below the desired circumference. According to Indian standards of fetal biometrics, the head circumference at 35 weeks is 30 cm.

After 2020, public health surveillance of the Zika virus could not continue with the same vigor due to the Covid-19 outbreak, said Dr. Pragya Yadav, senior scientist, ICMR-NIV. “But we saved the samples for Zika testing going forward. Since these outbreaks were reported from distant locations over a six-month period last year, we conducted a retrospective screening of Zika from May to October to assess the extent of the spread. of the disease in India,” Yadav said.

“Our investigation revealed Zika virus circulation in the Indian states of New Delhi, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab and Telangana in 2021, in addition to Kerala, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Zika and dengue and chikungunya co-infection was another problem in many places,” said Dr Yadav.

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