Arelatively unknown and mild, but extremely deceptive, mosquito-borne virus that attacks the foetus in an infected pregnant woman, may be spreading the disease quietly, not only across Bengaluru, but even all over the country.
And nobody seems to be aware of it
No, not even the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) under the Union ministry of health & family welfare or the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), which are the nodal agencies for monitoring disease outbreaks and issuing guidelines through the ministry; let alone the state health authorities. There is no commercially available test to specifically detect this virus called Zika. There is no cure for the illness caused by the virus. But this virus has become a source of a major health concern with Brazil and Colombia reporting several hundreds of cases of newborns being born with very small heads, a condition called microcephaly. At least two deaths in Brazil and one in Colombia have already been reported in December over microcephaly.
This condition has been found by researchers to be caused by the Zika virus which is able to cross the placental barrier after entering the womb from the mother’s bloodstream and infect the foetus – a feat which the dengue virus cannot perform, according to Scott Weaver, an expert on mosquito-borne viral diseases at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston, who has been in Brazil to investigate the cases.
What is even more worrisome is that the Zika virus fever has very similar symptoms and diagnosis as the dengue fever, easily leading medical practitioners to diagnose a Zika fever case to be a dengue case and treat it accordingly, completely missing the target.
In fact, the Zika virus is closely related to dengue virus and both are transmitted by the same mosquito – the Aedes aegypti – which is widely present across the world
According to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in India (as much as in Pakistan, Vietnam and a host of African countries) the evidence of Zika virus transmission is from studies that detected virus antibodies in healthy people. This indicated the presence of the Zika virus in those samples, although without specifically detecting them. The antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins which function to identify and help remove foreign antigens or targets such as viruses and bacteria. Every different antibody recognises a specific foreign antigen, in this case the Zika virus.
In India, Bengaluru (with 1,249 dengue cases in 2015) in particular has much to worry about a possible outbreak that could threaten unborn babies with microcephaly if the mothers are infected
Researchers have found that the virus is deceptive because in adults it expresses only through a mild fever with symptoms similar to dengue and chikunguniya but no hospitalisation is required. But if a pregnant woman gets infected, although she too would suffer a mild fever with no need for hospitalisation, the virus can attack the foetus to cause irreparable damage if not tested and diagnosed in time.