WHO Confirms Zika Virus Cases in India

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World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed the infection of Zika Virus in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – Government of India (MoHFW) reported three laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus disease in Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat State, India.

Zika Virus:

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys through a network that monitored yellow fever. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.

People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.

There is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Links to other neurological complications are also being investigated.

It is characterised by brain damage and may cause other defects like blindness, deafness, and even seizures.

Implications of this event:

This report is important as it describes the first cases of Zika virus infections and provides evidence on the circulation of the virus in India. These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future. Efforts to strengthen surveillance should be maintained in order to better characterize the intensity of the viral circulation and geographical spread, and monitor Zika virus related complications. Zika virus is known to be circulating in South East Asia Region and these findings do not change the global risk assessment. WHO encourages Member states to report similar findings to better understand the global epidemiology of Zika virus.

The risk of further spread of Zika virus to areas where the competent vectors, the Aedes mosquitoes, are present is significant given the wide geographical distribution of these mosquitoes in various regions of the world. WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conduct risk assessment based on the latest available information.

Indian Government Response:

National Guidelines and Action Plan on Zika virus disease have been shared with the States to prevent an outbreak of Zika virus disease and containment of spread in case of any outbreak.

An Inter-Ministerial Task Force has been set up under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) together with Secretary (Bio-Technology), and Secretary (Department of Health Research). The Joint Monitoring Group, a technical group tasked to monitor emerging and re-emerging diseases is regularly reviewing the global situation on Zika virus disease.

All the international airports and ports have displayed information for travellers on Zika virus disease.

The airport health officers along with airport organizations, National Centre for Disease Control, and the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme are monitoring appropriate vector control measures in airport premises.

The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is tracking for clustering of acute febrile illness in the community.

In addition to National Institute of Virology, Pune, and NCDC in Delhi, 25 laboratories have also been strengthened by Indian Council of Medical Research for laboratory diagnosis. In addition, 3 entomological laboratories are conducting Zika virus testing on mosquito samples.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has tested 34 233 human samples and 12 647 mosquito samples for the presence of Zika virus. Among those, close to 500 mosquitos samples were collected from Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, in Gujarat, and were found negative for Zika.

The Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is monitoring microcephaly from 55 sentinel sites. As of now, no increase in number of cases or clustering of microcephaly has been reported from these centers.

Risk communication materials are being finalized by the Central Health Education Bureau, in consultation with UNICEF.

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