India on Tuesday urged its citizens to avoid or defer travelling to countries affected by Zika, a mosquito-borne virus suspected of causing microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in babies.
A government advisory particularly urged pregnant women to “defer/ cancel their travel to the affected areas”. The government said it is preparing against the virus by implementing a range of measures at hospitals, maternity centres, international airports and ports.
New Delhi’s National Centre for Disease Control and Pune-based National Institute of Virology will be main labs for screening of suspected samples. Apart from these two, 10 additional laboratories would be strengthened by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to expand the scope of laboratory diagnosis.
The government’s focus will be on checking mosquito-breeding as Zika, like dengue and chikungunya, spreads through the bite of Aedes Agypti mosquito.
The World Health Organization on Monday declared an international health emergency over the Zika virus, which has spread to more than 20 countries and territories. It said the disease was “strongly suspected” to be linked to a large number of babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads.
Zika was first detected in a Ugandan forest of the same name in 1947, but it was considered a relatively mild disease until the current outbreak was declared in Latin America last year.
*Non-essential travel to the affected countries to be deferred/ cancelled
*Pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant should defer/ cancel their travel to the affected areas
*All travelers to the affected countries/ areas should strictly follow individual protective measures, especially during day time, to prevent mosquito bites (use of mosquito repellant cream, electronic mosquito repellants, use of bed nets, and dress that appropriately covers most of the body parts)
*Persons with co-morbid conditions (diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory illness, Immune disorders etc) should seek advice from the nearest health facility, prior to travel to an affected country
*Travellers having febrile illness within two weeks of return from an affected country should report to the nearest health facility
*Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention about their travel during ante-natal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.
(With inputs from agencies.)