Education and Prevention Project on Zika virus- Awareness through-Ecoclub- network

Kanchan Puri and Dr. Ritesh Joshi, Environment Education Division, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, New Delhi

2020-04-02 13:30:00



The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) programme is an international science and education programme, supported by NASA, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). This programme provides students worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the earth system and global environment. India is partner to this GLOBE programme, and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is the nodal agency for implementation of GLOBE in India. The introduction of any emerging infection and its rapid spread to other parts of the world draws global attention. Under the GLOBE programme, Zika Education and Prevention project is a global initiative, connecting citizen scientists around the world to make them aware on ZIKA virus.

Zika Virus was first isolated from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest, Uganda, in April 1947. The first isolation of virus from humans was carried out in 1952, in Uganda and in Tanzania. Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The same mosquito also transmits three other vector-borne diseases - dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. It usually bites during day time. The most common symptoms of this disease are mild fever, skin rash, headache, muscle and joint pain and inflammation of the underside of the eyelid.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), since October 2015, some countries and territories of America have reported the presence of this virus. As per WHO, Zika virus is known to circulate in Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific. It is a potential threat, especially in urban settings where Ae. aegypti  is abundant. Recently, WHO risk assessment report described an outbreak of confirmed Zika virus infections in Rajasthan state, India. Prior to this outbreak, India reported four confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in 2017, three cases were in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and one case in Krishnagiri District of Tamil Nadu. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also developed National Guidelines For Zika Virus Disease and Action Plan For Managing Zika Virus Disease.

This Zika Education and Prevention project works with citizen scientists, public health officials, teachers, and students to safely collect larvae samples and upload data using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper. The project encourages to better control mosquitoes and reduce mosquito-borne infectious disease.  It is a well established and recognised fact that the children can be catalysts in promoting a mass movement about the ensemble of the environmental issues. The Ecoclub programme of MoEF&CC exposes school children to in-depth field experiences, and provides opportunities to convert their ideas into creative action. The main objectives of this programme is to impart knowledge to school children, through hands on experience, about their immediate environment, interactions within it and the problems therein. Therefore, through the network of Ecoclubs this Zika Education and Prevention project has been initiated. In order to create mass awareness on this ZIKA virus through the network of Ecoclubs in schools, trainings have been provided to the Ecoclub teachers in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The trainings under the Zika Education and Prevention project involves following aspects:

  • Introduction on ZiKA virus, causes, symptoms etc.
  • Modalities of using mobile app called “GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper” and uploading of data through app.
  • Data collection, identification and analysis of larvae

Preventive measures.

As per literature available, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus. The project aims enlisting thousands of students and teachers to collect data on mosquitoes for a global mapping project. Protection against mosquito bites is a key measure to prevent Zika virus infection. These activities will be very helpful in sensitising public towards environmental problems and creating awareness on ways to prevent mosquito bites like use of insect repellent; cover as much of the body with long and light colour clothing; use physical barriers such as wire mesh on doors and windows; and clean  containers that can hold water for mosquitoes breeding. It is hoped that the Ecoclub students and teachers shall definitely bring triggers for a chain reaction, making a difference at the local and community level which in due course lead to awareness at City, State, Country and Global level on this virus. Further the  Global data collection on this scale will help international scientists to predict new outbreaks.