Zika virus in Mumbai: Warning symptoms and prevention tips by experts
A 79-year-old man in Mumbai has been tested positive for Zika virus. From fever to joint pain, here are symptoms of mosquito-borne illness.
The first case of Zika virus case has been reported in Chembur, Mumbai, said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The 79-year-old man suffered from fever, cough and stuffy nose. The mosquito-borne illness transmits through aedes ageypti mosquitoes that also spread dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever virus, and West Nile virus. While most people infected by it remain asymptomatic, in some cases symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and muscle pain appear. (Also read: Mumbai reports first case of Zika virus)
Elderly, expecting mothers, people with diabetes, cancer patients, or those on immunosuppressive medications, dialysis dependent and HIV are at risk of developing severe infection and prolonged illness. If untreated or prolonged, Zika virus may cause organ dysfunction, neurological issues and symptoms like seizures, altered sensorium, encephalitis and nerve related problems can occur.
Very few cases of Zika virus have been reported in India. In 2021, a Zika virus infection was confirmed in a 24-year-old pregnant woman, resident of Kerala. In the same year, a 50-year-old woman from Maharashtra’s Belsar, was tested positive. In 2022, a 7-year-old female student of a government ashramshala (residential school) in Zai, Talasari was diagnosed with Zika virus.
What is Zika virus
"Zika virus infection is a viral illness caused by the Zika virus. It is an arthopode-borne virus that belongs to the same family of viruses (flaviviridae) as dengue virus, yellow fever virus, and West Nile virus. The transmission of Zika virus infection primarily occurs via the bite of infected mosquitoes. Other means of transmission include maternal-foetal transmission, sexual route (including vaginal, anal, and oral sex), blood product transfusion, organ transplantation, or exposure in a laboratory," says Dr. Rohit Garg, Consultant, Dept of Infectious Disease, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.
"Zika constitute major potential epidemiological risk due to the recent sudden rise in cases, their complications, and severity. It is a mosquito-borne illness and transmitted by day-biting mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, both exquisitely adapted to the human and urban environment. Epidemiologically, though it can occur across all ages, but it causes significant burden of illness among children and pregnant females," says Dr Neha Rastogi, Consultant, infectious disease, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
Symptoms of Zika virus
"It commonly manifests in the form of an acute illness characterised by the acute onset of low-grade fever, pruritic rash, skin rash, joint pains, red eye, myalgia, headache, retro-orbital pain, and weakness. Other less commonly observed symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, and mucocutaneous ulcers. Rarely, it can cause eye, cardiac, neurological, etc. complications," says Dr Garg.
"In terms of clinical presentation, it has insidious and long-term complications. With short incubation period and fever as index presentation- high grade along with muscle aches and severe joint pain more commonly seen. Maculopapular itchy rash is frequently observed from 5-6th day of illness. Unlike dengue, it has minimal haemorrhagic and bleeding complications," says Dr Rastogi.
Complications and who's at risk
Dr Rastogi says people who are elderly or children, pregnant females, uncontrolled diabetes, cancer patients, on immunosuppressive medications, dialysis dependent and HIV are at risk of developing severe infection and prolonged illness.
"If untreated or prolonged causes organ dysfunctions and Neurological involvement is mostly associated with Zika infection. It can cause - seizures, altered sensorium, encephalitis and nerve related problems. In pregnant females, it can be even transferred from mother to child causes organ development delay and congenital zika syndrome," says Dr Rastogi.
“The mosquito-borne virus can cause neurological complications in adults. If a person gets infected by Zika Virus during pregnancy, the infection can interfere with the growth of fetus and lead to abnormally small head and underdeveloped brains in the children,” says Dr Rajesh Kumar, Sr Consultant Internal Medicine, Paras Health, Gurugram.
Young children require extreme care as they tend to play outside more during the evening hours and are more susceptible to mosquito bites. People with a weakened immune system or any medical condition must also be very careful. They are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms in case of infection due to their weak immune system.
“The infection of Zika Virus can cause various complications, especially in pregnant women affecting the health of child. The most common complications include birth defects, neurological issues, miscarriage, eye problems and more. Pregnant women are most likely to develop the symptoms of Zika Virus and it can cause severe complications in childbirth. These complications include abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain leading to intellectual and cognitive disabilities and other neurological problems. Zika Virus can also increase the risk of miscarriage. In some cases, Zika Virus infection can lead to neurological complications in adults in which the immune system attacks the nervous system of the person leading to serious problems such as paralysis, weak muscles, and even life-threatening situations. A very common symptom of Zika Virus infection is redness in the eye which can develop into conjunctivitis leading to vision impairment and retinal damage,” says Dr Kumar.
Prevention of Zika virus
"One can prevent himself or herself from getting the Zika virus infection by avoiding mosquito bites by reducing mosquito breeding places (stagnant water in objects like tyres, plastic covers, flower pots, pet’s water bowls, etc.), keeping the doors and windows closed to avoid mosquito entry, keeping ourselves covered by wearing full-sleeve shirts and trousers, using mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, etc. Avoiding travel to endemic areas during pregnancy Sexual abstinence from unprotected sex following symptoms or exposure, i.e., men should wait at least three months and women should wait at least eight weeks after symptom onset Avoid blood or tissue donation for six months following viral exposure," says Dr Garg.
To prevent Zika virus transmission, several key measures can be taken, says Dr Laxman Jessani, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai as he goes to elaborate on the same:
- Minimizing exposure to mosquito bites is crucial. This involves using insect repellents, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and wearing long-sleeved clothing and socks.
- Eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites by emptying containers that collect water, such as flowerpots and tires, can help reduce the mosquito population.
- For individuals residing in or traveling to Zika-affected areas, practicing safe sex is vital.
- Pregnant individuals should take extra precautions, avoiding travel to regions with active Zika transmission and using preventive measures if their partner has travelled to such areas.
- Staying informed about the latest travel advisories and health guidelines from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities is recommended. Using physical barriers like screens on windows and doors can further prevent mosquito entry into living spaces.
“Young children who tend to play outside during evening hours are more susceptible to get infected by Zika Virus. Children must wear protective clothing before going outside to avoid mosquito bites. People must also prevent water stagnation in the surroundings as they can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and lead to various mosquito-borne diseases. Prevention is the only way to stay safe from the Zika Virus infection as there is no vaccine or cure for the disease,” says Dr Kumar.
"Preventing Zika virus infection requires a combination of personal precautions and community efforts. By following these prevention tips, individuals can significantly lower the risk of Zika virus exposure and potential complications, says Dr Jessani.