With the WHO predicting that the Zika virus could spread like wildfire and accounting for four million people around the world, the Indian Government has stepped up its effort to counter the same. JP Nadda, the Union Health Minister, summoned a high-level meeting recently in order to establish a team that will keep an eye on the possible spread of the virus in India and try to stop any such phenomenon. It is expected that the group will also be keeping a watch on how the virus is affecting people in other countries and provide timely suggestions on the basis of these developments to help stop the spread of this virus in India. Following the meeting, Nadda told the media that the government had been keeping an eye on the situation and taking all the steps necessary to make sure that India is ready even if there is an outbreak of Zika virus in India.
What is the government planning to do?
The said meeting was attended by prominent officers in the Union Health Ministry as well as representatives from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). As per Nadda, the government is focusing on making the surveillance system better. The government is also expected to discuss the issue with health experts working in the governmental institutions on 1st February and only after that will it indicate the future course of action. As of now, India is yet to report a case of Zika virus.
A brief about the Zika virus situation
The carrier of the Zika virus is the Aedes mosquito that is also responsible for diseases such as chikunguniya and dengue. Thanks to this virus, a significant number of children have been born in Brazil with microcephaly, a rather rare birth defect that leads to abnormally-small heads and brain defect or damage. Scientists though have stated that more studies need to be done in order to firmly say that there is a link between the disease and the virus. WHO states that the disease started to spread in Brazil during 2015 and has now spread to 24 countries across North and South America. The level of emergency surrounding the disease can be easily gauged from the fact that countries such as El Salvador, Ecuador, and Colombia are now asking women to not get pregnant before 2018.
How is India at threat?
It is also being stated that the disease could happen in any country where the Aedes mosquitoes are found. In the Americas, Canada and Chile are the only two countries where this mosquito is not found. However, India could be under threat from the virus because the Aedes mosquito is found in India as is evident from the regular spells of dengue and chikunguniya over here.
Prevention of Zika virus – role of community awareness
The mosquito is known to breed in clean collected water and this is where Nadda says that the community can play a greater role in controlling the spread of the disease. He has said that efforts should be made to nip the disease in the bud itself and for that community awareness needs to increase. This probably implies that people need to be more careful about not letting clean water accumulate at any place in their house or surroundings.
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