FAQ: Zika in Kerala, What Do We Know About the Virus?

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There are reports from Kerala of atleast one confirmed case of Zika virus, a first in the state. The patient is believed to be a 24-year-old pregnant woman. More samples have been sent for testing at National Institute of Virology, Pune, and it is suspected that 13 out of 19 of these have tested positive.

What is a Zika virus? How does it impact humans? How does it impact pregnant women? Is this the first case of Zika virus in India? We break down these questions for you:


How does Zika virus spread?

Through the bite of an infected Aedes genus mosquito. These mosquitos also cause chikungunya and dengue infections. The infection can spread from a pregnant woman to the fetus and that can lead to birth defects. It can also pass through sex with an infected person.

What symptoms should you look out for?

First, doctors say it is important to remember that the infection is not usually life threatening. Only 1 in 5 infected people will show symptoms. These include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. The onset of symptoms is usually 2 to 7 days after being bitten by a mosquito. Deaths remain rare and most people will not require hospitalisation.

Is it a new virus?

No, Zika is not even new to India. Cases of the virus were seen in Rajasthan in 2018, says the World Health Organisation.

The virus itself has been around for decades, but it came into prominence when there was an increase in the number of babies in south and central America who were born with a small skull. This condition is called microcephaly. For pregnant women with Zika they may give birth to babies with microcephaly. Pictures of these set off a world-wide scare in 2016-17.

How do we protect ourselves from Zika virus?

While travelling to countries were Zika infections have been previously reported, take full precaution against mosquito bites. There are no current approved vaccines for Zika virus, but advance trials are underway, interestingly using a similar technology that was used in making the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine, sold in India as Covishield.

What is the treatment for Zika virus infection?

Since there are no known medicines, the treatment remains symptomatic. Take plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration and a fever medicine to reduce temperature.

How do I take care of a loved one with Zika?

The US CDC has this advice on its site:

Don't touch blood or body fluids without wearing protective gloves. If you do get some on your clothes, remove and wash them immediately.

Keep your hands clean and wash them with water and soap frequently.

Keep the surroundings clean with disinfectants.

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