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Zika Virus Being Underplayed, Could Prove Fatal: Study Experts

The first three Zika virus cases, which included two pregnant women and an elderly person, were reported from Ahmedabad between November 2016 and February 2017.

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Updated:September 3, 2019, 3:46 PM IST
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Zika Virus Being Underplayed, Could Prove Fatal: Study Experts
The t-shirt reads 'Out Zika'. (Representative photo: Reuters)
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Monsoon brings a host of diseases including dengue, Zika virus, malaria and chikungunya among other. While most parts of the country are facing the menace of monsoon diseases, Ahmedabad, which has been the epicenter for Zika outbreak in India, has not yet reported any case of the mosquito-borne disease so far this year.

October 2019 will mark a year since Ahmedabad reported a single Zika virus case; it was detected in October 2018. Neighboring states of Gujarat - Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh - last year recorded a major Zika virus outbreak and a total of 300 people were diagnosed positive of the vector-borne disease.

According to a Times of India report, four experts warn that "the next large Zika virus epidemic may be taking off in India." Spread by the Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti mosquito; Zika virus is dreaded for causing microcephaly in newborns.

A study published in the May edition of the journal called 'Cell' warns against being complacent about a single research conclusion from Chinese Academy of Sciences professor L Yuan, who had studied a single mutation responsible for microcephaly.

The study further said of the interpretation of Yuan's work, "It appears to be misleading Indian public health officials into believing that ZikV in India is not dangerous to fetuses, thereby creating a situation where pregnant women may not be properly supported and educated on ways to protect themselves."

The 'Cell' report, in fact, has quoted five recent studies that suggest that Zika strains without the S139N mutation can cause birth defects. By December 2018, nearly 100 pregnant women were reported to be infected with ZikV in India.

The first three Zika virus cases, which included two pregnant women and an elderly person, were reported from Ahmedabad between November 2016 and February 2017. On October 26, 2018, a woman tested positive for Zika virus in Amraiwadi area.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is common in homes, also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Global disease experts of America's Yale School of Public Health, Banglore's Centre for Ecological Sciences of Indian Institute of Science, Australia's infectious disease research team, and Brazil's Centre Instituto Goncalo Moniz have given out strong cautionary message. The experts' research states, "Putting too much onus on a single mutation could enhance a crisis in India."

The study states that in 2018, Indian public health authorities have "sequenced five Zika virus isolates from Rajasthan and concluded that the virus cannot cause microphaly unless has mutation."

The research paper was authored by Professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) Albert Ko and Nathan D Grubaugh of Yale, Farah Ishtiaq of Indian Institute of Science, and Yin Xiang Setoh of school of chemistry and molecular biosciences, Queensland University, Australia. "Not only should we be vigilant about the threat of future ZikV spread, but also of the spread of misinformation that could put many vulnerable populations at risk," the study concludes.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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