The Gujarat government on Sunday defended itself against criticism for allegedly remaining silent over the three reported Zika cases. Chief Secretary JN Singh told reporters that the World Health Organisation, which had confirmed the cases, erred in saying that the first positive case was reported in February 2016, and that it was actually in November 2016. Singh also said the patients belonged to separate neighbourhoods and were not all from Bapunagar, as reported by WHO.
Though Singh acknowledged that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries the virus, was endemic to Ahmedabad, there was no increase in the number of cases. “So the government consciously did not go public with the cases,” Singh said.
The state administration rejected demands for a campaign targeting the virus specifically. “We had teams of around 350 people who carried out large scale surveillance in the Bapunagar area, to which the patients belonged,” Health Secretary JP Gupta told NDTV. The health secretary said the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation was not informed about the cases as they were “isolated” and “to avoid panic”.
Ahmedabad Municpal Council Commissioner Mukesh Kumar told reporters, “All these three cases – two from Bapunagar and one from Gopalnagar – are random. There is no relation between any of these cases. They are from middle-class families with no foreign travel history.” He evaded questions about whether the patients were aware of their condition, saying “In 80% of the cases, patients are not aware about Zika. Public health in Ahmedabad is in a good state, no need to get scared.”
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also said there was no reason to panic as there were no new cases of the virus. 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.