Govt calls emergency meet on Zika, issues travel advisory | india | Hindustan Times
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Govt calls emergency meet on Zika, issues travel advisory

The meeting was called after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday announced it would be holding an emergency meeting next week to decide whether the virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency or not, given its ‘explosive’ spread in parts of the world.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2016 15:27 IST
Rhythma Kaul
A government campaign poster informing about Zika virus symptoms is seen at the maternity ward of a hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Josue Decavele
A government campaign poster informing about Zika virus symptoms is seen at the maternity ward of a hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Josue Decavele(REUTERS)

Union health minister JP Nadda convened an emergency meeting with his team of medical experts from across the country to discuss the prevention of Zika virus in India, early on Friday morning.

Top researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), including director of Pune-based National Institute of Virology that is screening samples for Zika virus, were also present at the meeting. So far, none of the test samples screened for the virus have returned positive, though the sample group is small.

Read more: Along came a virus: Here’s why people are panicking about Zika

The meeting was called after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday announced it would be holding an emergency meeting next week to decide whether the virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency or not, given its ‘explosive’ spread in parts of the world.

Read more: India prepares for Zika virus, health ministry readies testing kits

“The meeting is on Zika virus and the preparations that we need to make to prevent the outbreak in India. The number of childbirths that take place every day in India is huge, and since Zika virus is affecting foetuses, it is going to be disastrous for us,” said a senior health ministry official.

Read more: Countries with Aedes mosquito, including India, on Zika virus radar

Citing their success in containing Ebola at entry points across the country, the official added the same has been managed with Zika so far. “We will be working closely with the aviation and external affairs ministry to check movement of passengers from Zika-affected countries,” the official said.

India’s bigger concern is the carrier for Zika virus – the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The insect is also a carrier for dengue virus that claims hundreds of lives and infects thousands across the country every year. The symptoms of Zika are also the same as for dengue infection – fever, head and body ache, nausea and so on.

The virus was first detected in 1947, and for decades caused mild infections only. However, it has worried experts this time given its adverse congenital affects on foetuses, primarily congenital deformities.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the Zika virus is now prevalent in more than 20 countries, mostly Central and South America, and babies born to infected mothers have microcephaly, wherein the size of the head is abnormally small causing developmental issues in children.

Meanwhile, Indian Medical Association (IMA) has issued an advisory, asking pregnant women to avoid traveling to countries at risk of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission. Countries included in the list issued by the Centre for Disease Control are:

• The 14 countries and territories earlier identified in Central and South America and the Caribbean are Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

• Six countries in the Caribbean and South America: Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, and Guyana and the two Cape Verde and Samoa. These break the geographic pattern. Cape Verde is off the coast of Africa while Samoa is in Polynesia.

Watch | All you need to know about the Zika virus