- Issues related to health.
Rajasthan Zika strain is endemic to Asia
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Zika- virus, symptoms and spread, Is India prepared to face such outbreaks?
Context: According to a recent study by National Institute of Virology, Zika virus that infected 159 people in an outbreak in Rajasthan last year, could have been circulating in India for several years and is endemic to Asia.
What’s the concern now?
- The finding that the outbreak was caused by an endemic virus is quite important. It suggests that people in the region may have been previously exposed to the virus, building herd immunity that may limit future outbreaks. It also states that the strain of virus found in India is different from that found in Brazil.
- While this is good news, because it implies that a portion of the population could be immune, it could also mean that Zika-related birth defects such as microcephaly were occurring even before the virus was first detected in India.
Why India should be worried about Zika outbreak?
- Limited knowledge about epidemiological characteristics of virus and its interaction with other arboviruses, such as dengue.
- Limited lab capacity and cross reactivity of diagnostic flavivirus antibody assays.
- Absence of population immunity. High mobility of population and cross-border movement of travellers with infections.
- Favourable breeding conditions for Aedes mosquitoes and our inability to control mosquito breeding in the past for dengue.
- Poor surveillance system.
- Underfunded and inadequate infrastructure in healthcare system in India resulting in inadequate outbreak control response.
Need of the hour:
- Enhanced and strengthened surveillance.
- Establish rapid response teams.
- Enhanced risk communications.
- Establish access to a qualified diagnostic laboratory.
- Regular vector surveillance and integrated vector management (IVM).
- Travel measures.
- Health education for community mobilization.
- Inter-sector convergence and Co-ordination with International agencies.
Is India prepared for disease outbreaks?
- Over the last decade, the Indian government has strengthened the surveillance and response system for catching disease outbreaks early.
- India may have improved its disease surveillance network, but reducing and limiting disease outbreaks requires several other measures, many lying outside the scope of the healthcare system.
Challenges ahead for India:
- Can the country bring the large number of private practitioners into the disease surveillance network?
- Will the government increase its investment on healthcare, and bring them on a par with countries that have a good healthcare system?
- Will India improve its ability to quickly develop vaccines from scratch?
- Will research institutions and public health officials improve their health risk communication?
Mains Question: Write a note on the Zika virus outbreak, its causes, consequences and the role of the government in dealing with this outbreak.