A five-year-old girl in Raichur district was confirmed to be infected with the Zika virus on December 12, making it the first case in Karnataka. The girl who was down with fever and joint pain was admitted to the Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (VIMS), Ballari, in November. The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of Aedes mosquitoes (A.aegypti and A.albopictus), which generally bites during the day, but there are quick and easy ways to stay safe.
How to stay safe from the Zika virus
Dr Aditya S Chowti, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru, says that protecting oneself and one’s surroundings is important in cases of vector-borne infections such as the Zika virus. According to him, there are basic preventive measures that one can take.
“Mosquitoes generally breed in domestic waters. They can breed both indoors and outdoors. Make sure there is no stagnant water anywhere in your surroundings. Each house has to be clean [clear] of stagnant water. Use anti-mosquito repellents that best suit you. Even physical barrier nets will do a good job of preventing mosquito bites,” he says.
Dr Kumar adds that it is also important to avoid going to places which are unhygienic or filthy and have areas of water standing still.
Zika Virus infection: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment | Happiest Health
Pregnant women at higher risk
Dr Kumar says that while Zika does not usually induce a lot of complications and cases are usually mild, with symptoms of viral fever, pregnant women are in the higher risk category.
“When pregnant women get infected with the Zika virus, that’s where it can lead to conditions like microcephaly, where the baby’s head is smaller than expected. This is why pregnant women should be especially careful about protecting themselves from the Zika virus. They should be isolated immediately. When other complications arise, the protocol is to treat them like you would treat a viral infection like dengue. There is no specific antiviral drug,” said Dr Kumar.
Dr Kumar adds that the main protocol for medical professionals is that when a person is showing dengue-like symptoms and the dengue test turns out to be negative, a test for Zika needs to be carried out.
Not the first case?
However, Dr Anoop Kumar, chief of critical care medicine at Baby Memorial Hospital Calicut, who diagnosed the first Zika virus case in North Kerala in 2021, recalls that the person, a woman with a recent travel history to Bengaluru showed up at the hospital in Kerala with fever and rashes all over her body.
She also showed symptoms of conjunctivitis. “The blood tests were all showing us a dengue-like picture,” Dr Kumar told Happiest Health.
“We had a clinical suspicion that it was Zika, so we did a PCR test and it came back positive for the virus. We made sure she was isolated at home and treated her,” he adds.
Dr Kumar says that Zika is also a viral disease and there is no specific antiviral medicine for the condition. The treatment protocol involves providing supportive care. “It usually manifests in the form of a viral fever where you will see symptoms of fever and body ache. Usually, dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika have the same clinical manifestations. We use something known as triple testing to detect these diseases through a PCR test. Once the dengue test comes back negative, the protocol is to test for both chikungunya and Zika together. Be it in Kerala, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, the actual number of cases might be much higher, but it is not being detected or tested properly.”
Not just humans, mosquitoes are also tested for the virus
An endocrinologist from the Karnataka health department said that along with the blood samples from suspected persons, the mosquitoes from the surrounding areas were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology, Bengaluru. Explaining the process, the doctor said, “Collection of mosquitoes is a herculean task as we need to check every corner of the house and find those that are hiding in the dark. About 10 mosquitoes from over 25 houses were collected and the process is done mostly during the day when the infected mosquitoes are active.”
She added that after the collection of the mosquitoes, they are kept at a cold temperature to keep the virus alive while being transported for the viral test.
Raichur on alert
According to the district health officer, Dr Surendra Babu, the infected girl was down with a fever on 13 November, followed by vomiting and joint and muscle pain when she was admitted to the government medical college Ballari for further treatment on November 15. She tested negative for dengue virus when the samples were further sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, to confirm for other viral infections. She was discharged on November 18 post her recovery.
“Serum samples of all five family members were tested negative. The girl and her family were residing on the outskirts of the village and the family did not require isolation. Mosquitoes in and around the house have been captured to test for the virus,” said Dr Babu.