New Delhi: After dengue and Chikungunya, the Zika virus, which has caused a global scare, is seen as a threat to people in Indian subcontinent. The reason: the virus spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito Aedes Eg ypty, which breeds in fresh water, and given India’s poor public hygiene, such pools are in abundance.
Doctors in Bengaluru are getting themselves up are getting themselves updated themselves about the disease by sharing messages on WhatsApp groups.But the Union health ministry and the state health department are yet to take concrete action. There are no testing f acilities in place, no screening procedures at airports, no guidelines on how to tackle it if it begins to spread.
Bengaluru, doctors say, may be at a risk as a large number of people travel to South America and other countries where the virus has struck. Contributing to it would be the city’s garbage menace and the resultant mosquitoes.
Dr GM Vamadeva, director, health and family welfare department, said, “There is no need to fear.The virus has not yet come to India. We have no power to issue guidelines. The Centre must do it . We are yet to understand what kind of surveillance needed to screen travellers coming from the affected countries.”
Dr Satish Amar nath, head of quality compliance and outreach programmes at Manipal hospital, said India is vulnerable to Zika infection. “It’s definitely going to be a threat. A lot of Indians travel to South America. The government must set up systems at airports to screen those coming from the affected areas. We do not have facilities to test, identify and monitor Zika.Commercial testing kits are the need of the hour,” he told STOI.
Dr Satish, who monitors occupational clinics, said there are many cases wherein travellers who have come from South America showing symptoms of onset of fever. “But we do not know the cause of their fatigue, and at present no mechanism to test for Zika virus,” he added.
“It’s high time we protected ourselves from mosquito breeding,” said Dr SM Prasad, paediatrician and assistant professor at Dr BR Ambedkar Medical College.”It is said that the infection is mild in 80% of cases and goes unnoticed in many. It’s the travellers who are going to spread the virus and we must be careful with the screening at the airports.If the virus hits India, there are chances that the worst affected places will be the western ghats and coastal areas due to extreme temperatures,” he added.
We’ve known mosquitoes are responsible for chikungunya and dengue but are cavalier in tackling their breeding pools. Now, Zika joins this list and we seem clueless how to tackle it. Even as the West struggles to firefight this latest scourge, health authorities must move swiftly to ensure the staff on the ground are well trained to detect the disease and are well versed with treatment measures.The fight against Zika looks like a long and tough one.