The WHO report describing the first Zika virus cases is important as it provides evidence of the virus circulating in India. While the Gujarat government says there’s no need to panic over the state’s three occurrences, it’s clear India must take greater precautions, more in areas where the Aedes mosquitoes are significantly present. The virus, which has no cure or vaccine but is not known to be deadly like dengue, was first found in India in 1964. It is known since 2015 that a virulent version, which swept the world and affected the Rio Olympics last year with some athletes withdrawing, could be headed for India as the more benign strain was within some people, and could prepare genetic grounds for the second coming.
Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and chikungunya have taken more lives than other forms of pestilence. India’s dengue deaths have long called for controlling mosquitoes through source reduction at breeding sites. And yet the Gujarat CM took the pedantic line that there was no Zika patient in his state now as the three known cases were already treated. As none of the three had travelled abroad, it is likely the infection was picked up locally. However, the presence of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are active during daytime, and the general overcrowding, lack of hygiene and very warm summers are known to be grounds for an expanding threat. There has fortunately been no case yet of microcephaly (small head and brain in new-borns), but the war on mosquitoes must be fought with increased vigour.