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WEST NILE VIRUS ALERT IN KERALA



  May 17, 2024

WEST NILE VIRUS ALERT IN KERALA



The state of Kerala has issued an alert due to early reports of West Nile Fever (WNF) before the usual onset of the South West monsoon, highlighting the ongoing battle against vector-borne diseases. With 20 suspected cases and two suspected deaths reported, the situation demands a comprehensive understanding and response to manage and mitigate the spread of this virus.

Diagnostic Challenges and Surveillance

West Nile Virus (WNV) poses significant diagnostic challenges due to its mostly asymptomatic nature; approximately 80% of infected individuals do not show symptoms. Among symptomatic cases, the virus often presents with general symptoms such as fever and headache, which can be confused with other mosquito-borne illnesses. This complicates diagnosis, particularly in its acute phase, making effective surveillance critical.

Vector and Virus Ecology

- Mosquito Vectors: The Culex mosquito, commonly found in large stagnant water bodies like paddy fields, is the principal vector of the WNV. This mosquito facilitates the virus's transmission cycle, which also involves birds.

- Bird Reservoirs: Over 250 bird species are known to be reservoir hosts for the WNV. In Kerala, the interaction between large stagnant water bodies and migratory birds creates an ideal environment for the virus to thrive.

Historical Context and Current Trends

The first significant outbreak of AES linked to WNV occurred in 1996 in Kerala, with subsequent outbreaks adding to the body of evidence that WNV is a persistent health threat in the region. The possibility of co-circulation with other viruses during outbreaks, such as the Chikungunya epidemic, points to the complex dynamics of vector-borne diseases in Kerala.

Public Health Response and Strategies

- Surveillance Systems: Enhancing surveillance to detect and respond to WNV cases is crucial, particularly using the One Health approach which considers the interconnected health of people, animals, and their shared environment.

- Preventive Measures: Public health advisories focus on mosquito bite prevention through the use of repellents, mosquito nets, and the elimination of stagnant water sources.

- Public Awareness: Educating the community about the symptoms of WNV and the importance of seeking early medical help can aid in quicker diagnosis and treatment.

- Research and Monitoring: Studies are needed to understand local virus transmission dynamics, including the role of native bird species in the virus ecology.

Conclusion

While WNV has a lower mortality rate compared to diseases like dengue or Japanese Encephalitis, its potential to cause severe neurological effects cannot be overlooked. Continuous monitoring, community engagement, and adaptive response strategies are essential to manage the threat posed by West Nile Virus in Kerala.


SRIRAM’s


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