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Everything you need to know about Zika virus – symptoms to treatment

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New Delhi- Global health officials say the Zika virus, linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is spreading rapidly in the Americas and could infect 3 million to 4 million people. The race is on to develop a Zika vaccine.

Here are some questions and answers about the virus and the current outbreak.

How do people become infected?

The virus is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Aedes mosquitoes are found in all countries in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile, and the virus will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.

How do you treat Zika infection?

There is no treatment or vaccine available for Zika infection. Companies and scientists are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika, but one is not expected to be ready for months or years.

How dangerous is it?

The PAHO said there is no evidence that Zika can cause death but some cases have been reported with more serious complications in patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in newborns marked by abnormally small heads and brains that have not developed properly. It also has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body`s immune system attacks part of the nervous system. Scientists are studying whether there is a causal link between Zika and these two disorders.

How is Zika related to microcephaly?

Health officials have yet to establish a direct causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects, but it is strongly suspected. Brazil has reported 3,700 cases of suspected microcephaly that may be linked to Zika. It is unclear whether in pregnant women the virus crosses the placenta and causes microcephaly. Research in Brazil indicates the greatest microcephaly risk appears to be associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of Zika infection?

People who get Zika virus disease typically have a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue that can last for two to seven days. But as many as 80 percent of people infected never develop symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same type of mosquito.

How can Zika be contained?

Efforts to control the spread of the virus focus on eliminating mosquito breeding sites and taking precautions against mosquito bites such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets. U.S. health officials have advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries where they may be exposed to Zika.

How widespread is the outbreak in the Americas?

The World Health Organization said Zika cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the Americas in the current outbreak. Brazil has been the nation most affected. Other nations and territories include Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the PAHO.

What is the history of the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is found in tropical locales with large mosquito populations. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and Western Pacific. The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys and was first identified in people in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania, according to the WHO.

Can Zika be transmitted through sexual contact?

One case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described but the PAHO said more evidence is needed to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission. The PAHO also said Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent transmission mechanism. There is no evidence the virus can be transmitted to babies through breast milk.

What other complications are associated with Zika?

The WHO says because no big Zika outbreaks were recorded before 2007, little is known about complications caused by infection. During an outbreak of Zika from 2013-2014 in French Polynesia, national health authorities reported an unusual increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome. Health authorities in Brazil have also reported an increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Long-term health consequences of Zika infection remain unclear. Other uncertainties surround the incubation period of the virus and how Zika interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes such as dengue.

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Snow, rain in Himachal bring little respite from prolonged dry spell

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Snowfall in Shimla

Shimla: As a little respite from the prolonged dry spell that has rung the alarm bells, some districts of Himachal Pradesh are today witnessing scattered to heavy rain and light spells of snowfall in upper parts of Shimla.

The hospitality industry is cheering at the news of light snowfall in Kufri and Narkanda as snow draws more tourists. An ongoing spell of light snowfall was also reported from Sanjuali adjoining areas.

Chamba and Kangra districts were reported to have received a good spell of rain at the time of writing.

The Meteorological Department, Shimla, has predicted snow and rain across the state on 23-24 January. However, thereafter, another dry spell has been predicted by the Met.

As per the meteorological department, the chances of snow or rain are scarce after these two days.

Until yesterday, the temperature in the State was recorded about 6 to 7 degree Celsius higher than the month of January usually witnessed in the past.

The popular cities like Shimla were staring at a dark future this year due to 100 percent dry spell since last November to this day. On the other hand, if post-monsoon rain deficit is considered, it has risen to alarming 46 percent.

Due to the dry spell, the forests of the State were burning due to frequent fires. The rain is likely to extinguish it.

During the previous week, over 100 incidents of forest fires were reported. The fires have destroyed a lot of flora and fauna.  

The peak winter period is about to be over and the State had so far witnessed anomaly in temperature, which was reported have increased by five to six notches upto yesterday. Th

The maximum temperature in Shimla, which otherwise was famous for its bone-chilling winters, was reported to be about 20 Degrees Celsius – about 7 notches above the usual temperature during winters.

In case the state did not receive sufficient spell of rain/ snow during these two days, the two largest sources of income for the state agriculture and tourism will be hit hardest.

Earlier, when the pattern of weather was normal, the State used to receive three to four spells of snowfall by this time with the accumulation of upto 30 to 50 cms snow.

The water level is fast decreasing. The illegal as well legal boring throughout the State for commercial purposes is also adding to the woes related to the groundwater level.

Effect on Agriculture   

The farmers were not able to plough their fields due to the paucity of rain or snow. The Rs. 3,000 crore apple industry is also not out of danger yet. The rain is likely to save the apple trees from burning due to pesticides.

The fresh or new plantation was also in danger. In Himachal, out total 12 states, eight districts namely Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Kinnaur are the leading producers of apple, which are in dire need of snow.  

Lack of required amount of moisture in the soil for germination of seed had created consternation among the farmers as their seed would have gone waste otherwise.

In Himachal, 70 percent cultivable area is dependent on rain. The farmers would be doomed if the god of rain remained penurious about the rain and snow.

HP Government’s Review Meeting with the IPH Department

The Chief Minister had yesterday called a review meeting of Irrigation and Public Health Department along with the concerned Minister Mahendar Singh Thakur.

So far, the state government was apprehensive about the possible drought-like situation. The government said the state might face acute shortage of water. The IPH department was advised to get ready to deal with the water-shortage in advance.

The water supply schemes could be affected leading to a shortage of drinking in all major towns. The IPH department has been asked to explore the possibilities of installing more hand-pumps and arrange for water tankers if needed.  

Threat of Jaundice Outbreak

The State government has also admitted that the jaundice outbreak threat does loom large in Shimla city as water sources are drying up. Several cases of jaundice were reported during the current month. The Shimla Municipal Corporation has advised people to boil water before use.

The farming community, fruit growers, and hospitality industry are expecting more snow and rain during next 24 hours. 

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Himachal makes HIV/AIDS test mandatory for all expectant mothers

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HP Aids control Society

The cases of AIDS are increasing in the State. Currently, the official number of the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) is around 5700 in Himachal.

Shimla: The State government on January 22, 2018, launched the nutrition scheme for children living with HIV-positive in Himachal Pradesh. The launch was announced by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur during an awareness campaign organised by the HP State AIDS Control Society to mark the National Youth Day.

The purpose is to deliver nutritional supplement and boost immunity of around 400 HIV positive youth up to the age of 18 years. In addition, it aims to enable them to lead a normal and healthy life.

The government has made it mandatory for every expectant mother to go through the HIV test. It would prevent passing on of the virus to the baby in case the mother is HIV-positive.

The cases of AIDS are increasing in the State. Currently, the official number of the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) is around 5700 in Himachal.

The government said the awareness campaign should be intensified in schools and colleges including organisation of skits, street shows, which are effective ways of communicate to the masses.

The education department will work in close coordination with the health department to provide special facility to educate all children living with HIV-positive.

HP AIDS Control Society also organized a Red Ribbon fair on the Ridge along with flagging-off a half marathon.

The AIDS Control Society also launched its official website and twitter handle.

Further, there is a dire need to initiate massive awareness campaigns about this disease up to rural areas. The Non-profit Organizations (NGOs) and individuals will have to come forward and supplement the efforts of the health department in creating awareness.

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Video: Fire in Shimla’s Gumma devours Rs. 40 lakh property  

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gumma-fire

Shimla: In a tragic incident of fire breakout in Gumma area of Kotkhai region in Shimla district on Saturday, about six rooms of a three-story building were lost. The fire brigade saved the two storeys and buildings adjacent to it.

No loss of life was reported, but the estimated loss of assets was initially assessed at about 40 lakh rupees.The owner of the house was identified as Rohit Chauhan.

Rohit’s mother was alone at the house when the fire broke out at about 3 PM. His mother called for help. However, the fire gutted six rooms on the third storey along with all belongings by the time the fire service reached the spot.

gumma-fire

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit.

While the other two stories housed shops, the third one was Rohit’s home.

The district administration has given Rs. 20,000 as a relief to the victim family.

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