‘NIV monitoring spread of Nipah AND Zika virus’

Namrata Devikar
Wednesday, 23 January 2019

There has been widespread concern after the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala last year and the recent outbreak of Zika in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In an exclusive interview, Dr DT Mourya, Director of Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV), highlighted their work.

Pune: There has been widespread concern after the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala last year and the recent outbreak of Zika in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In an exclusive interview, Dr DT Mourya, Director of Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV), highlighted their work. NIV is one of the premier institutes of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), known for its research on viral diseases of public health concern including swine flu, Nipah virus, Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, monkey fever and others.

We recently saw a rise in swine flu cases. Has there been any virus mutation for H1N1?
We at NIV have been monitoring swine flu virus. We collect around 1,000 samples from different regions each month and see if there has been any change in the virus. The virus is so far the same. There is a presence of H3N1 strain as well. The introduction of quadrivalent vaccines is good and it will help to control the spread since this vaccine also includes Influenza B. 

Last year, there was an outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala. What is the current research happening in this and is there a possibility of another outbreak?
We have been monitoring Nipah virus very closely especially after the outbreak.The ICMR is in touch with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, New Delhi, and we are trying to take samples of bats from various states and union territories. There is no need of panic as the surveillance is ongoing.

Recently, there have been cases of Zika virus in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The State Government has also put tourist spots on surveillance for Zika. What is the scenario right now?
Zika virus spreads by the same Aedes species of mosquito, which is also the carrier for dengue and chikungunya viruses. We had identified the Uganda strain and Malaysia strain of the virus previously. Evidence suggests that the virus has been present since the late 40s in the country but only now we are seeing the cases. We are also taking in samples to monitor Zika and surveillance is in place. However, the best protection from Zika is to keep the home and workplace free of breeding places of mosquito.

In the past few days, Karnataka has also reported cases of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) also called as monkey fever. Is there a possibility of its spread?
Monkey fever spreads because of the infectious tick bites. The infectious ticks are found in forest areas, for example, the Western Ghats. So, it is not possible for it to spread all over the country. NIV is continuing research in this direction.

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