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Zika warning

Zika warning

The deadly Zika virus—a mosquito-borne disease—has made its presence felt in India. The Centre, State governments and local municipal authorities must act on war footing and prevent it from reaching epidemic proportions. On May 26, the World Health Organization officially confirmed that in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the first 3 cases of Zika virus had been detected. Although information about these three cases was made public on Friday, the National Institute of Virology had confirmed the first more than four months ago. In its note, the WHO claims that the Indian government passed on information about these three cases back nearly two weeks ago on May 15 for further confirmation. There are few questions that one must raise. Why did the government take more than four months to inform the WHO about the first case? Moreover, once the Centre notified the WHO on May 15, why didn't authorities issue an advisory or circular to the local municipal corporation, doctors or the general public in Ahmedabad for nearly two weeks? Even though the Indian Council of Medical research had informed the Gujarat government about the three cases of Zika virus infections in the city, reports indicate that officials at the city's municipal corporation were unaware until they read about it on the WHO's website. It is up to local health authorities under the city's municipal corporation to conduct disease control measures, inform the public and treat those infected with the virus. Has the Centre or the Gujarat government issued guidelines or an action plan on how to tackle the Zika virus and prevent an outbreak? The Health Ministry has reportedly set up a task force, while all international airports and ports have been asked to display information on the virus and monitor necessary measures to contain the virus.

The Centre has said there is no reason to panic over the three Zika virus cases, while the Indian Council for Medical Research has announced that all patients have recovered. As the WHO has not suggested any travel or trade restrictions to India, the government's assurances do hold good for the time being. For the uninitiated, Zika virus, a deadly mosquito-borne disease was first reported in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to more than 60 countries. The virus had infamously held Brazil hostage for more than two years, killing nearly 260 people. It is a virus transmitted by an Aedes aegypti mosquito that also carries dengue and chikungunya. Health experts have drawn a conclusive link between the Zika and microcephaly (a condition where a foetus is born with an abnormally small head) in children born to women affected with the virus. Akin to measures used to deal with other mosquito-borne diseases, authorities are advised to remove breeding sites and minimise contact between mosquitoes and people. Use of insecticides is also an option to contain an outbreak.

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