Contain Zika virus in Jaipur

It is a matter of serious concern that a number of Zika virus infections have been reported from Jaipur, and they present a new challenge to public health authorities. As many as 117 persons, including a number of pregnant women, were diagnosed with the virus infection till early this week, and new cases are being found every day. This is the largest outbreak in the country so far, after the discovery of three cases in Ahmedabad and one case in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu last year. The Ahmedabad health authorities had kept the cases a secret for many months and this had attracted much criticism. But the authorities have handled the Jaipur cases with a sense of responsibility and transparency. Persons suspected of having been infected were quarantined and health camps were organised in the affected areas and nearby localities. A door-to-door campaign and fogging have been undertaken as preventive measures, and are continuing. 

Fortunately, no fatalities have been reported so far but the threat posed by the virus can be imagined from the fact that about five lakh people in and around the affected localities are under surveillance. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and so the first preventive measure is to stop their breeding. Steps need to be taken to ensure that mosquitoes which have bitten Zika patients do not carry the virus to others. Fighting the infection is difficult because there are no symptoms for a long period and even when they appear, they are mild and are mistaken for flu. There is no effective treatment, and it can turn fatal or lead to paralysis. Pregnant women who get infected are likely to give birth to children with defects like microcephaly. Women are advised to avoid pregnancy as long as there is suspicion of the presence of the virus in a particular area. 

The first major outbreak of Zika infection was in Brazil in 2015 and since then it has spread to 86 countries. The World Health Organisation has said that the virus is in circulation and has issued a worldwide alert. The person who carried it to India has not been identified. The three places where its presence has been confirmed are far from one another. Heath authorities have to remain vigilant everywhere and immediate testing should be done when there is a suspicion of infection. Some experts have advised random testing at regular intervals everywhere. Awareness campaigns should also be undertaken. If Zika becomes endemic and goes out of control, it can become a major public health disaster. That is why all efforts should be made to contain the outbreak in Jaipur and stop the virus from spreading.

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Contain Zika virus in Jaipur

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