The health hazards like Nipah, Zika and Ebola are to be emphasized for prelims and the major global health risks are to be updated every now and then. ‘Health hazards as disasters’ as a topic is to be studied for Mains where one can give Zika and Ebola as examples in the answers.
Outbreak of Zika virus in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
Placing it in syllabus
Paper 2: Issues relating to health
Epidemic and endemic disasters
Recent outbreaks of Zika
History of Zika
Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda.
In 1952, the first human cases of Zika were detected and since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in many locations.
Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases were likely to have occurred and were not reported. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, many cases may not have been recognized.
Facts related to Zika:
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
Zika can spread through sex and blood transfusion (very likely but not confirmed)
There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are Fever, Rash, Headache, Joint pain, Red eyes and Muscle pain.
Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
Why Zika is risky for some people?
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. It is also linked to other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.
Why is it difficult to trace Zika virus?
Specific areas where Zika virus is spreading are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time.
Zika virus infection – India
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.
Public health response
National Guidelines and Action Plan on Zika virus disease have been shared with the States to prevent an outbreak of Zika virus disease and containment of spread in case of any outbreak.
An Inter-Ministerial Task Force has been set up under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) together with Secretary (Bio-Technology), and Secretary (Department of Health Research). The Joint Monitoring Group, a technical group tasked to monitor emerging and re-emerging diseases is regularly reviewing the global situation on Zika virus disease.
All the international airports and ports have displayed information for travellers on Zika virus
The airport health officers along with airport organizations, National Centre for Disease Control, and the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme are monitoring appropriate vector control measures in airport premises.
The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is tracking for clustering of acute febrile illness in the community.
In addition to National Institute of Virology, Pune, and NCDC in Delhi, 25 laboratories have also been strengthened by Indian Council of Medical Research for laboratory diagnosis. In addition, 3 entomological laboratories are conducting Zika virus testing on mosquito samples.
The Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is monitoring microcephaly from 55 sentinel sites. As of now, no increase in number of cases or clustering of microcephaly has been reported from these centers.
Risk communication materials are being finalized by the Central Health Education Bureau, in consultation with UNICEF.
WHO is supporting countries to control Zika virus disease by taking actions outlined in the Zika Strategic Response Framework:
Advancing research in prevention, surveillance, and control of Zika virus infection and associated complications.
Developing, strengthening and implementing integrated surveillance systems for Zika virus infection and associated complications.
Strengthening the capacity of laboratories to test for Zika virus infection worldwide.
Supporting global efforts to implement and monitor vector control strategies aimed at reducing Aedes mosquito populations.
Strengthening care and support of affected children and families affected by complications of Zika infection.
Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people. During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.
Test yourself: Mould your thoughts
In the light of outbreaks of Zika in India, discuss the vulnerability in India for such global health risks. Enumerate the measures taken in India to restrict the spread of such diseases.