India has recorded its biggest outbreak of Zika virus to date, with 32 cases confirmed in Jaipur, capital of the western state of Rajasthan.
The first case was confirmed on September 23 in the city’s Shastri Nagar area, located close to some of the city’s main tourist attractions.
The country’s health minister, JP Nadda, has deployed a seven-member team to Jaipur to continually monitor the situation and assist with control and containment operations.
The number of suspected cases cannot be estimated, said Veenu Gupta, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Medical and Health & Family Welfare Department for the state, adding that samples are being collected daily from all residents in a three kilometer radius. “Those who test positive are reported.”
Those suspected to have contracted the virus are currently being tested. Mosquito samples from the area will also be examined.
“We have to do a very intensive survey within a 3 kilometer radius of where the first case was recorded,” said Gupta, adding that there are 58,000 households in the affected area and 100 to 150 teams are being deployed every day to identify cases of fever, pregnant women and mosquito breeding sites.
The teams have so far surveyed 43,000 houses and the state government is also ramping up efforts to raise awareness about the virus and how it can be prevented.
This is India’s third outbreak since 2017.
The first was reported in Ahmedabad in the western Gujarat state around January 2017 with three confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization.
Months later in July, a second outbreak was reported in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. According to local media reports, one man tested positive for the virus. Both outbreaks were contained.
Risk to expectant mothers
Zika virus was first identified 70 years ago in the Zika forest of Uganda. Isolated, small-scale outbreaks have occurred in various parts of the world, including Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, but no major complications had been linked to the virus until it arrived in Brazil, which has been reporting an extensive outbreak to the World Health Organization since March 2015, and soon spanned to Central and South America.
As of March 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were at least 90 countries and territories with active Zika virus transmissions.
The virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Most people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms. If there are symptoms, they typically appear a few days to a week after exposure, although the precise incubation period is not known, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika.
Fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye) are the most common symptoms of the virus. Some patients may also experience muscle pain or headaches.
The virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion, by needle or from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
The real concern is among pregnant women as the virus can cause microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads, which in turn can cause severe developmental issues and sometimes death. A Zika infection may cause other birth defects, including eye problems, hearing loss and impaired growth. Miscarriage can also occur.
All pregnant mothers in the area will also be monitored, according to a statement released by India’s Health Ministry. The World Health Organization announced in November 2016 that the Zika virus is no longer a public health emergency of international concern, but India’s Health Ministry continues to monitor it.