The Aedes mosquito has another sinister implication for Delhi, in addition to being the pest that transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses. The confirmation of 13 cases of Zika virus among Indians in Singapore has raised the risk of the infection spreading across the country , and Delhi is at highest risk not only because of its being an international travel hub, but also because Aedes aegypti, the vector for Zika virus transmission, already has a strong presence here.”The threat of the Zika virus spreading is more potent now than ever before,” worried a senior doctor at AIIMS.”The government should step up screening of travellers from nations affected by the disease. It will be difficult to stop the virus’ spread otherwise.”
AIIMS recently held a workshop to acquaint doctors with the key symptoms of the disease and how to detect it at the earliest. Dr Mala Chhabra of the National Centre for Disease Control said that any patients with a history of travel to the affected regions, including south and central America and the Caribbean, should be reported if they have mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain -the classic symptoms of Zika infection. “Zika is like the younger sister of dengue. Its presentation is very similar, but new research links it to serious neurological manifestations,” she said.
According to Dr KK Aggarwal, president-elect of the Indian Medical Association, the only way to prevent Zika’s entry into the country is to strictly screen travellers from the affected countries. “We will write to the health ministry to direct Zika virus tests for all patients diagnosed with microcephaly or Guillain-BarreSyndrom (GBS), which are conditions associated with Zika infection,” he said. In light of the current disease trend and its possible association with adverse pregnancy outcomes, the union health ministry has asked pregnant women to defer travel plans to affected nations. Persons with co-morbid conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory illness and immune disorders, have also been advised to seek health advice before travelling to such countries. “During the Ebola scare two years ago, a few issues cropped up that haven’t been dealt with yet, among them quarantine facilities in the capital,” said a vexed expert.”The Airport Health Organisation, where international passengers are screened for deadly diseases, only has a dozen quarantine units and lacks manpower, while the big hospitals in the city are swamped with chikungunya and dengue cases.”
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