How India faced deadly viruses, apart from COVID-19

New Delhi,  Coronavirus was first reported to the World Health Organisation from the Wuhan city of China on December 31. Since then, the virus has brought the entire world in a lockdown situation and India is no different. However, this is not the first time that India has faced a dreaded virus: the country has faced new viruses since the time of H1NI (Swine Flu), Nepah, Zeka and Ebola.

As on Wednesday, there are 562 total confirmed cases and nine casualties of novel coronavirus. “India started thermal screening on the earmarked aerobridges from January 17, even before the WHO said” the Union Health Minister Harshvardhan had said in Parliament. Gradually, in phases, the country closed its borders in order to contain the disease for COVID-affected countries such as China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Iran and others.

India has successfully evacuated over a thousand people from the corona- affected parts of the world. Currently,the entire country is in lockdown for the next 21 days, starting from Wednesday, as advised by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

In 2009 another strain of virus was first reported in April that year from Mexico, which spread globally, including India, through transmission when a 23-year-old entered India from New York . Declared a pandemic by the WHO in 2009, H1N1 is now a seasonal infection that usually occurs every year with two peaks — January to March, and July to September.

That time, it affected cities such as Pune, Mumbai and Delhi. From Meghalaya to Jalandhar, Bangalore to Lucknow, Hyderabad to Ajmer, Jammu to Thiruvananthapuram, Varanasi to Vadodara — cases grew rapidly.

In 2009, the government had shut down schools and offices as the age cluster for the disease was 15 to 45 years.

In 2018, the WHO had recommended a quadrivalent vaccine (vaccine with four strains). This vaccine is available in the Indian market now.

Another of its kind, the Nipah virus, was heard from Kerala. Large fruit bats of the ‘genus pteropus’ are the natural reservoirs of NiV. As of July 17 in 2018, a total of 19 Nipah virus (NiV) cases, including 17 deaths, were reported from Kerala State: 18 of them were laboratory-confirmed.

The outbreak was localized to two districts in Kerala: Kozhikode and Malappuram. No new cases or deaths have been reported since June 1, 2018 and, as of 30 July, human-to-human transmission of NiV has been contained in Kerala. The outbreak was first reported on May 31 in 2018. Due to strict and robust government measures, it did not reach outside Kerala and was contained.

On May 15, 2017, the Union Health Ministry reported three laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus disease in Bapunagar area in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Caused by a virus transmitted primarily by aedes mosquitoe which bites during the day, Zika virus disease during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with microcephaly and other congenital malformations, known as congenital Zika syndrome, and other complications of pregnancy including preterm birth and miscarriage.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had tested 34,233 human samples and 12,647 mosquito samples for the presence of Zika virus. Among those, close to 500 mosquito samples were collected from Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, in Gujarat, and were found negative for Zika.

This virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys and was later identified in humans in 1952. Later, cases were reported from America, Africa and Brazil. A total of 86 countries and territories have reported evidence of mosquito-transmitted Zika infection.

In 2014, the spread of the deadliest virus- Ebola loomed large on the country.

On October 11 in 2014, an Indian woman, serving in Liberia as a UN peacekeeper, was isolated on arrival after she was found with “Ebola-like symptoms.” That time the Indian government had installed thermal scanners and other virus tracking equipment at 18 airports. Passengers who showed Ebola like symptoms were kept in isolation wards in hospitals.

Fruit bats are considered as natural hosts for Ebola virus. The disease is 90 per cent fatal. An experimental Ebola vaccine proved highly protective against EVD in a major trial in Guinea in 2015.

However, there are many more viruses the country continues to struggle with such as dengue, chikungunya, japanese encephalitis, to name a few.