February 15, 2016Print : Islamabad
The provincial government has so far taken no measures to avoid a possible outbreak of Zika virus, relatively a newer yet alarming virus that may cause an unusual increase in the number of cases of congenital microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.
The most alarming fact in case of reported Zika virus transmission is that the mosquitoes ‘aedes aegypti’ and ‘aedes albopictus’ are considered as the main vectors which exist in Pakistan in abundance. These species of mosquitoes that bite during the day are the same vectors that cause dengue fever in Pakistan.
Studies reveal that there is no prophylaxis, treatment or vaccine to protect against Zika virus infection and thus, preventive personal measures are the only means to avoid mosquito bites during the daytime and to avoid its outbreak, there is a need to avoid breeding of its vectors.
No case of Zika virus disease has so far been reported from anywhere in Pakistan however it is important to create awareness among public on preventive measures against the infection, said Focal Person for Infectious Diseases at Rawalpindi Medical College Dr. Javed Hayat while talking to ‘The News’ on Sunday.
He said as there is no treatment or vaccine is available for treatment of Zika virus disease so any case if reported can only be given supportive medication as is being done across the globe.
He said that recently in a training session organised in Lahore for health professionals on management of seasonal flu, the experts delivered a detailed technical lecture on various aspects of Zika virus infection. Elimination of mosquitoes ‘aedes aegypti’ and ‘aedes albopictus’ and their larvae is the most important tool to avoid both dengue fever and Zika fever, he said.
Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a monkey in the Zika forest, Uganda, then in mosquitoes (Aedes africanus) in the same forest in 1948 and in a human in Nigeria in 1952. Before 2007, viral circulation and a few outbreaks were documented in tropical Africa and in some areas in Southeast Asia. In 2015, Zika virus disease outbreaks were reported in South America for the first time. Zika virus disease is now considered as an emerging infectious disease with two Zika virus lineages including the African lineage and the Asian lineage.
Studies reveal that the incubation period ranges between approximately three to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito while most of the infections remain asymptomatic. Disease symptoms are usually mild with a short-lasting self-limiting febrile illness of four to seven days without severe complications.
The main symptoms of Zika infection are maculopapular rash, fever, arthralgia (joint pains), fatigue, non-purulent conjunctivitis, conjunctival hyperaemia, myalgia (muscle pain) and headache. The maculopapular rash often starts from the face and then spreads throughout the body.
It is important that congenital central nervous system malformations such as microcephaly in fetuses and newborns from mothers possibly exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy were notified during recent Zika disease outbreaks (French Polynesia and Brazil) while an unusual increase in number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome was also reported in several countries with the Zika virus outbreak.
It is important that recently the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding a recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders and the possible association of these illnesses with Zika virus infections.
It is worth mention here that in Brazil, as many as 2,782 cases of microcephaly were registered in 2015 after spread of Zika infection while the number of cases were 167 and 147 in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Many health experts in town believe that the government should take all possible measures to avoid Zika infection in Pakistan well in time.
It is alarming that population in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi faced the worst ever outbreak of dengue fever in 2015 that hints towards a failure of the concerned authorities in checking breeding of mosquitoes ‘aedes aegypti’ and ‘aedes albopictus’ and the same are the main vectors for Zika.