The World Health Organisation on Friday confirmed the first three cases of the Zika virus in India to have been reported from Ahmedabad in Gujarat. The statement issued said all three cases, one of which includes a pregnant woman, have been reported from the Bapunagar area. The organisation said the document is important as it is the first evidence about the presence of the virus in India.
WHO said guidelines have been shared with state authorities to prevent an outbreak. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had reported the cases on May 15, WHO’s statement said. “The routine laboratory surveillance detected a laboratory-confirmed case of Zika virus disease through RT-PCR test at BJ Medical College, Ahmedabad, and Gujarat.”
The development gains significance as the state government had launched its Free Gujarat from Malaria by 2022 campaign in Ahmedabad on May 24. The campaign only makes cases of dengue, malaria and chikungunya notifiable. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Entomologist Vijay Kohli told The Indian Express that more efforts need to be taken to rid the city of the mosquito menace. “Ahmedabad has always been the first to report outbreaks. So either we have a lot of illnesses or we are reporting better than other states,” Kohli told the English daily.
“We need to be vigilant now. We are at a risk .We have to have a surveillance system in place. The government has been keen on the malaria campaign when it should have targeted all vector-borne diseases. Because of a single campaign other serious diseases are ignored,” said Dr Deepak B Saxena, Additional Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar.
Pregnant women are at a higher risk if they contract the virus as Zika has been linked to microcephaly, which among other complications causes the baby’s head to be smaller than average.
The international organisation said an inter-ministerial task force has been set up in a bid to monitor the virus. The panel includes the secretary of Health and family welfare, bio-technology secretary.
“The Indian Council of Medical Research had 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 WHO statement said.
The English daily said efforts to get a reaction from Health minister Shankar Chaudhary and commissioner of health JP Gupta proved futile.
The Zika virus had held Brazil hostage from 2015 to 2016. The World Health Organisation had already lifted its international emergency over the virus on November 18 last year.