West Nile Fever – A New Threat To India?

West-Nile-Fever-A-New-Threat-To-India
West-Nile-Fever-A-New-Threat-To-India

Recently, a child in Kozhikode, Kerala died of West Nile Fever, an unfamiliar disease to India.

What Is West Nile Virus ?

  • West Nile Virus (WNV) is the cause of West Nile Fever.
  • The virus is commonly spread through mosquitoes bites.
  • It is found in almost all types of mosquitoes – Aedes, Culex, Anopheles, Culiesta, Mansonia, and Psorophora.
  • This disease is deadly as it occurs throughout the year unlike the seasonal diseases in India like dengue, Chikungunya and others.
  • Other than mosquitoes, the virus can be spread through blood transfusion, from infected mother to child or exposure to the virus in laboratories.
  • The virus is known to not cause any infection when in contact with the infected person or animals. Physical contact does not transmit the virus.
  • Also, eating infected animals did not show any infection if the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Symptoms : 

  • Not all infected people carry the symptoms of the virus. Only 1 in 5 will show symptoms of the disease.
  • The disease is dreaded as it has irreversible effects on the brain.
  • The symptoms include – fever, headache, weakness etc.
  • But, the WNV shows certain nervous system symptoms – disorientation, convulsion, stupor, loss of vision etc.
  • The most affected people are old age persons, those with diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

Origin and Its Spread :-

  • As per World Health Organisation (WHO), the first case of WNV infection was detected in 1937 in Uganda.
  • WNV is found across Africa, Europe, Middle East, West Asia and America.

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Current Status in India :-

    • The disease occurred sporadically in India.
    • There is no sign of the disease being spread across the country.
    • Majority of the cases in India are from the Northeast.
    • As per experts from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the virus infection in a boy in Kerala is of academic interest. Also, they say that there is no worry that the virus will spread as it has poor transmission capability.

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Being Vigilant :-

  • But, the being vigilant to such threats is absolutely necessary.
  • It is how the threat of Nipah and Zika have been controlled.
  • Globally too, WHO states that epidemics from pathogens is one of the ten global health threats in 2019. The others are:
    1. Air Pollution and Climate Change
    2. Noncommunicable Disease
    3. Global Influenza Pandemic
    4. Fragile and Vulnerable Settings
    5. Antimicrobial Resistance
    6. Ebola and Other High Threat Pathogens
    7. Weak Primary Healthcare
    8. Vaccine Hesitancy
    9. Dengue
    10. HIV

India being a tropical country coupled with a huge population, pathogens pose a great threat. Any new virulent strain might lead to heavy loss of life.

Thus, the government must prepare for any eventualities and must try to mitigate the damage earlier.

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