SRINAGAR: A four -year-old research paper has established that the mosquito, which is the carrier of Zika virus, has been found in some areas of the Valley, but health authorities say that its mere presence does not mean the population was at the risk of any disease.
The paper, published in the ‘International Journal of Environmental Biology’ in 2012, “Influence of Climatic Factors on the Distribution of Tree Hole Mosquitoes Collected from Kashmir Valley”, shows that Aedes Aegypti, the carrier of Zika virus, along with Anopheles and Culex genera, have been found in Gulmarg, Hokersar wetland and forests of Khag.
Zika virus, first reported last year in Brazil, causes microcephaly (small head) and brain underdevelopment in newborn babies.
Head department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Government Medical College Dr Muhammad Salim Khan said, “The prevalence of these mosquitoes as per this study has been in Kashmir since 2011.These mosquitoes spread various vector-borne diseases like Malaria, Filariasis, Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue fever but no such cases was reported during those years. So this rules out the possibility that these mosquitoes have the potential to spread Zika virus.”
“This can be understood by a simple analogy. Plague is caused by rodents and we have rodents everywhere in Kashmir but do we have plague here? No, because the environment in the Valley is not favourable for the plague bacterium. Same holds true for Zika virus,” he said.
Kashmir being a tourist destination, does any tourist infected by Zika virus pose any threat to the locals? Professor and head of Community Medicine at the SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, Dr Majid Ganai answers:
“This is true that tourists from different parts of the world visit Kashmir and they might be infected by Zika virus. But the Valley environment is not congenial for the virus to survive. For example, a tourist suffering from malaria might visit Kashmir but that doesn’t mean he can infect others because the weather and environmental conditions are not conducive for the growth of the malarial parasite,” he said.
However, Dr Majid said, Kashmiris travelling to foreign lands, especially the pregnant women, need to take precautions.
“If we want Kashmir to be free from these diseases in future we need to keep our environment clean,” he added.