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What is the Zika virus? Should India be worried?

As countries in South and Central America grapple with the Zika virus which has been linked to microcephaly (a birth defect where babies are born with smaller heads which limits brain development), India has started preparing to tackle the virus (should it come to India) as well. According to this article, the Union health ministry is in the process of getting testing kits for detecting the virus which is spread by the bite of Aedes Aegypti mosquito that also spreads dengue (a disease that has a high prevalence in India).

What is the Zika virus?

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that causes fever. The virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was identified in rhesus monkeys during a yellow fever outbreak in 1947.Brazilian health authorities in November linked Zika to a surge in babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect that seriously limits a child’s lifelong mental and physical abilities. Brazilian officials have registered at least 2,782 cases this year, compared with just 147 in 2014 and 167 the year before.At least 40 of the infants have recently died, and some Brazilian researchers warn that cases could multiply in the months ahead. Those babies who survive may face impaired intellectual development for the rest of their lives.

How does it spread?

The virus spreads thru the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito which is also known to carry yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya viruses. An infected mother can pass on the virus to her newborn child.There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent or treat it, and travellers to Latin America are advised to protect themselves by avoiding mosquito bites.

Should India be worried?

In September 2015 , New Delhi faced the worst dengue outbreak with more than 10,000 people getting affected and resulting in the death of more than 30 victims. The virus could spread in India an affected person travels from Brazil to India.

However, according to this article, health officials here said not a single case has so far been reported in India and asserted there was nothing to panic.All precautionary measures have been taken in airports and sea-ports and health officials are screening people for Zika cases.

Infographic on the zika virus: click here.

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