Kerala has been put on high alert after the Zika Virus outbreak got confirmed. This virus outbreak takes place amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. India reported a Zika outbreak in the western state of Gujarat in 2016-17. Health authorities in Kerala have declared a state of alert in all districts after identifying 14 cases of Zika virus.

The First Confirmed Patient of the Zika Virus

Among the infected was a 24-year-old pregnant woman who was diagnosed with the mosquito-transmitted disease on Thursday. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her foetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

Health minister Veena George later called an emergency meeting and an action plan was formulated.

She said that-

“We have started a vigorous vector control programme and the whole state was alerted. We are monitoring the situation closely and more testing labs will be opened,”

said the minister, adding that there is no need for panic. The woman has no travel history and it is suspected that she was infected locally.

Health officials said samples were sent to the NIV last week and the mother gave birth normally on July 7, both mother and child are stable. At least 60 other samples were sent to Pune and health authorities are busy making arrangements to test samples at the NIV regional centre in Alappuzha.

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About Zika Virus

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. It and can also be sexually transmitted. Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms like fever, rashes and nausea.

Zika infections have been linked to incidences of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nervous system disorder caused by a person’s own immune system attacking nerve cells, causing muscle weakness or soreness, and sometimes, in some critical cases it can lead to paralysis.

The biggest danger from the Zika virus is to pregnant women and their foetuses. Zika infections in pregnant women can lead to congenital defects in in their new-borns such as microcephaly, in which the brain of the infant is small and underdeveloped.

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Zika Virus Prevention

Aedes mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control depends on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.

For source reduction of mosquito breeding, it is important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places, where mosquitoes can breed, are removed. During outbreaks, spraying of insecticides should be carried out or burning mosquito repelant incense sticks can proof to be a great help.

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How can Zika Virus be Treated?

Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with paracetamol. If the symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

The number of cases due to the mosquito-transmitted disease in the southern state went up to 14 on Friday following confirmation of 13 additional samples by the National Institute of Virology.