Recent study by the Indian Council of Medical Research shows the widespread presence of Zika virus in multiple states across India.
Health experts have raised concerns that the Zika virus may have already become endemic in India, as a recent study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed the silent spread of the virus in various states. Zika virus (ZIKV) is a vector-borne flavivirus primarily transmitted by infected Aedes mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Other modes of transmission include blood transfusions, sexual contact, and exposure to urine.
Previously, Zika cases were reported in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh in earlier years. However, the virus has now been detected in multiple states in 2021, including Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Delhi, indicating local virus transmission.
The study conducted by the ICMR demonstrated the retrospective surveillance for Zika virus, revealing the silent spread of the virus throughout India, with a predominance of the 2018 Rajasthan ZIKV strain. Notably, the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sampled during the 2018 Zika outbreak in Rajasthan showed the presence of the Asian lineage of the virus, distinct from the American lineage responsible for the global medical emergency in 2016.
Experts attribute the endemicity to monsoon season and increasing mosquito density, emphasizing the need for enhanced surveillance and preventive measures.
Health experts emphasize that while Zika virus infections have been increasingly observed in India, particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, there have been no reports of microcephaly, a birth defect associated with Zika infection, in the country. Dr. Satish Koul, Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, suggests that the Zika virus has likely become endemic in India, attributing it to the country’s peculiar monsoon season, which tends to lead to a higher prevalence of vector-borne diseases.
Health Experts Raise Alarm over Zika Virus Endemicity in India, Silent Spread Detected
Dr. Merlin Moni, Clinical Associate Professor at Amrita Hospital, Kochi, highlights the impact of increasing global warming, erratic rainfall, and rising mosquito density in spreading the Zika virus further across India. This raises concerns about the possibility of the virus becoming endemic, with transmission even from asymptomatic individuals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously warned that the next pandemic could be triggered by insect-borne pathogens, including Zika and dengue. The frequency and magnitude of outbreaks of these viruses, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, have been increasing globally due to various ecological, economic, and social factors.
Silent Spread of Zika Virus Raises Endemicity Concerns, India Faces Heightened Health Risk
While there are currently no specific treatment options available for managing Zika virus, conservative management is advised, including good hydration and the use of paracetamol to alleviate symptoms. Preventive measures such as mosquito nets, maintaining general hygiene, and eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites are crucial in reducing disease transmission.
Health experts call for continuous and enhanced surveillance of Zika virus, along with dengue and chikungunya, and emphasize the importance of developing a safe and effective vaccine for Zika that can be administered to pregnant women.