It’s a double whammy for Kerala. As the state battles a fresh surge in Covid-19 infections, it has reported 23 cases of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are usually seen early in the morning or late in the evening and are also responsible for the transmission of chikungunya, dengue, and yellow fever. Kerala reported its first case of the Zika virus on July 8, when a pregnant woman tested positive. The next day, a state-wide alert was issued in all 14 districts following the detection of Zika virus infections. A six-member central team of experts had also been dispatched to the state to monitor the situation as well as to support the state government in the management of cases.
As the cases rise, News18 spoke to consultant gynaecologist & obstetrician Dr Mamatha P on prevention, symptoms and risks for pregnant women.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika is not a new virus. It was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys and later identified in humans in 1952. This virus is usually spread by infected mosquitoes; though not all mosquitoes transmit the Zika virus and not every person bitten by an infected mosquito will get Zika. People who have the highest risk of getting the Zika virus are those who live in or travel to areas with active Zika transmission.
How does the virus spread?
The Zika virus spreads through sexual contact with an infected partner, vaginal, anal, or oral sex and sharing of sex toys. It can also be transferred from an infected pregnant woman to her foetus or through blood transfusion.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
Symptoms of Zika are usually mild, flu-like with fever, rashes, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, conjunctivitis, and red-eye. However, researchers are finding more symptoms in humans which can present 3-7 days after infection.
What is the risk for pregnant women?
Zika infection increases the chance of birth defects and other related health problems. Some of the neurodevelopmental problems are noticed in pregnant women after infection by Zika. However, researchers are still working to discover more about the possible effects.
What are precautions to be taken?
Prevention is better than cure. Avoid travelling to areas where there is a risk of getting Zika, use mosquito repellents and avoid sexual contact with an infected partner.
What happens if a woman tests positive for Zika during pregnancy?
As of now, we don’t have any vaccine for the Zika virus. If a pregnant woman tests positive, we need to focus on the baby’s growth for the remaining months. We must remember that just because a pregnant woman tests positive for Zika, it doesn’t mean her baby will for sure have birth defects or neurodevelopmental difficulties.