Union Health Ministry issues advisory to states after rise in Zika virus cases

Given the potential risks associated with the virus, particularly in pregnant women, states have been instructed to implement stringent protocols.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jul 03, 2024 | 9:31 PM Updated Jul 03, 2024 | 9:31 PM

Zika virus, a vector-borne disease, was reported in several Indian states, including Telangana and Kerala. (Wikimedia Commons)

In response to recent reports of Zika virus cases from Maharashtra, the Union Health Ministry has issued a comprehensive advisory to all states, emphasising heightened vigilance and proactive measures to contain the spread of the virus in the country.

Dr Atul Goel, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, underscored the urgent need for continuous monitoring of the Zika virus situation nationwide.

Given the potential risks associated with the virus, particularly in pregnant women leading to microcephaly (reduced head size) and other neurological issues in infants, states have been instructed to implement stringent protocols.

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Preventive measures to control spread of virus

Key directives outlined in the advisory include mandatory screening of pregnant women for Zika virus infection in affected and at-risk areas.

Health facilities are required to closely monitor the foetal growth of expecting mothers who test positive for Zika, adhering strictly to guidelines set forth by the Union government.

Furthermore, states are also mandated to appoint a designated nodal officer at each health facility to oversee and ensure the premises remain free from Aedes mosquitoes, the vector responsible for Zika transmission.

Enhanced entomological surveillance and intensified vector control activities are also urged across residential areas, workplaces, schools, construction sites, institutions, and health facilities.

In addition to these preventive measures, the advisory stressed the importance of public awareness through targeted information, education, and communication (IEC) campaigns on social media and other platforms.

These efforts aim to alleviate the community concerns and foster proactive participation in virus prevention, the press release from the Ministry stated.

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States mandated to maintain readiness

Notably, the Ministry said that Zika is like any other viral infection with most cases being asymptomatic and mild.

Moreover, there have been no reported cases of Zika-associated microcephaly in the country since 2016.

To ensure prompt detection and control of any potential outbreaks, state authorities have been advised to maintain readiness and ensure the availability of necessary resources at all levels of healthcare.

States were also urged to immediately report any detected case to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and the National Centre for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC) is also mandated.

Zika testing facility is available at National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune; National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi and a few selected virus research and diagnostic laboratories of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Ministry said.

DGHS had issued an advisory earlier this year on 26 April and Director, NCVBDC have issued two advisories in February and April, 2024 to alert the states on the risks of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya transmitted by same vector mosquito.

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What is Zika virus

Zika, akin to Dengue and Chikungunya, is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito and is a non-fatal disease.

However, it is associated with microcephaly of babies born to affected pregnant women, which makes it a major concern.

India’s first Zika case was reported in Gujarat in 2016. Since then, several cases have been reported in states namely Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Karnataka.

Maharashtra has reported a total of eight cases as of 2 July, originating from Pune (6), Kolhapur (1), and Sangamner (1).

The Ministry also stated that it is closely monitoring the Zika virus situation across the country, aiming to prevent further spread and safeguard public health.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

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