Rajasthan Zika strain not linked to microcephaly

The Union Health Ministry said on Saturday that advanced molecular studies suggest that the Zika virus strain affecting patients in Rajasthan does not contain the known mutations linked to foetal microcephaly and high transmissibility of the virus in Aedes mosquitoes.

The release cited studies of the Rajasthan Zika virus strains, carried out by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, through Next Generation Sequencing.

Strict vigil continues

The release added that government is maintaining a strict vigil given the possibility of adverse pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to the Zika virus as the strain may mutate in future or some other unknown/host factors may play a role in microcephaly /other birth defects.

The release said the Health Ministry is reviewing the situation on a daily basis. Around 2,000 samples were tested for Zika virus positivity, of which 159 positive cases have been confirmed.

Adequate numbers of testing kits have been provided to the Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories. The State government has been supplied with IEC material to create awareness about the Zika virus disease and strategies for its prevention. All pregnant women in the area are being monitored through National Health Mission. Extensive surveillance and vector control measures are also being taken up in the area.

Zika virus disease is an emerging disease currently being reported by 86 countries worldwide. Symptoms are similar to other viral infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache.

Vector management

In India, the first outbreak was reported in Ahmedabad in January/February 2017 and second outbreak in July, 2017 from Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu. Both these outbreaks were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.

The disease continues to be on disease surveillance radars of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern according to a WHO notification of November 18, 2016.