Testing babies for Zika

India continues to have a alarmingly unhurried response to the detection of Zika infections in the country. Three cases of Zika were detected in Ahmedabad earlier this year and reported to the World Health Organisation after a four-month delay. Now, The Hindu reports, that health authorities are beginning to test possible links between microcephaly cases in the country and Zika infections.

India’s health ministry received reports of 260 cases of microcephaly, a congenital defect where a baby’s head is small and underdeveloped, in India since February 2016 when it started tracking such cases. The WHO had declared Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern because in Brazil and other South American countries many children with microcephaly were born to women who had been infected with Zika. Zika cases were also reported in Singapore and parts of south east Asia. However, health authorities in India only conducted the first test for Zika in a child with microcephaly on Tuesday. The infant in Delhi who has severe microcephaly tested negative for Zika.

Health ministry officials told the newspaper that they have not tested microcephaly cases for Zika till this week because of a shortage of laboratory capacity. The government had set up surveillance at 55 centres in the country in February 2016.

“We could not check any of the cases for link with Zika because the programme had not evolved to that point,” Dr Ajay Khera, deputy commissioner for child health told The Hindu. The health ministry plans to d such testing of children with microcephlay from now.

More than 1,24,000 cases, 920 cholera deaths in Yemen

War-torn Yemen is now being ravaged by cholera. The United Nations Childrens’ Fund or UNICEF says that more than 1,24,000 cases of cholera have been recorded, of which half are children. At least 923 people have died from the infection since April. About a quarter of these deaths are of children.

Meanwhile, global charity organisation Save The Children has reported that the rate of cholera infection has tripled in the past two weeks and a child is now infected with cholera every 35 seconds.

Health and aid workers in the country fear that the cholera outbreak will overwhelm health infrastructure that has already been battered by two years of war. They are reporting that medicines and intravenous fluids necessary to treat cholera are quickly running out. UNICEF estimates that the number of cholera cases could rise to 2,50,000 in the next six months.

The UNICEF representative in Yemen Dr Meritxell Relaño told The Guardian that the cholera epidemic has come on top of a crisis in public services, which has crippled health, water and sanitation systems. The system was already debilitated by rising poverty and malnutrition reaching its peak. Diarrhoea brought on by cholera infections has had severe effects on children who are already very weak and whose immune systems have been compromised.

Fixed treatment rates in Karnataka

The Karnataka government on Tuesday tabled a bill to amend the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act 2007 to allow the state government to fix the amount of money that private hospital can charge for each class of treatment, The Mint reported. Hospitals that charge more than the prescribed amount will attract a maximum penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh.

Karnataka’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Ramesh Kumar tabled the amendment which includes rates fixed for clinical investigation packages, bed charges, operation theatre procedures, intensive care, ventilation, implants, and consultations. These tests, the amendment states, shall not attract charges above those fixed by the government, unless these additional charges are explained to the the patient and he consents to them.

The new clauses have been added to ensure that private hospitals do not demand advance payments in case of emergency treatment. In case of death, the bill states, private medical establishments shall hand the body over to the family without insisting on the payment of the dues, which can be collected eventually.