July 12, 2017
Bengaluru: Call it a coincidence or a minor scare, I am down with conjunctivitis for the past 5 days. It is only getting worse with each passing day. The pain refuses to subside, despite numerous home remedies and occasional soothing drops. Yesterday I decided that I needed to check with a doctor. Just after I stepped out of his clinic, I was informed about the fourth case of Zika in Tamil Nadu. I looked up frantically, and amongst many other symptoms, conjunctivitis was one of them. I went back again to ask him about it. “Most likely, you are not infected with Zika virus, though I am talking empirically. My experience says that since yours is spreading like an epidemic– (my husband and my child is also down with conjunctivitis), I don’t see much of a scare. But we need to follow your case for any complication,” says Dr Rahul Jain, Glaucoma Consultant, Dr Jain’s Eye Clinic, Bangalore. Little knowledge about any disease can cause panic, though symptoms shouldn’t be ignored in the wake of such reports. Zika virus is primarily spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms include conjunctivitis (redness of eyes with a clear, watery eye discharge but without fever, eye pain, or eyelid redness. Therefore, my scare wasn’t completely without basis. Further, Doctors in Brazil report that, a man infected with Zika developed a potentially severe eye condition, in another sign that the dreaded virus can harm vision in both babies and adults.
Dr. Soundari, Head Medical Services, Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Chennai says, “The eye doesn’t have a strong immune system, meaning that viruses may more easily replicate there. Ophthalmologists who see patients with Uveitis should be aware that Zika is a potential cause of it and general doctors should know that a red eye associated with Zika is not necessarily only conjunctivitis. It can be more severe than it looks. Individuals should consult an eye care provider (optometrist or ophthalmologist) if the symptoms persist.”
The initial reports of the three cases of Zika came early this year. Unlike the Central and Gujarat government that took a lot of time to go public with the three cases, the government of Tamil Nadu did three tests in three different states, and confirmed one positive case of Zika virus, within 11 days of detection in a 27-year-old male.
This man from N Puttur village in Krishnagiri district had tested positive for the virus on July 1. And funnily, even in this case, the patient didn’t travel outside. “This means that it is a locally transmitted case,” says Dr S. Subramanian, Consultant, Dept of Infectious Disease, Global Health City, Chennai. “There is no reason for panic but if one is positive, there has to be more. How else could this patient have got Zika?,” Dr S. Subramanian explains. If that’s the case, do we need more awareness campaigns? “No, that may unnecessarily spread panic. First we need to do more testing in that district. Doctors and nurses need to be educated to handle such cases, and then public awareness comes last.”