Union health minister JP Nadda directed the health authorities on Friday to form a team of experts to monitor the spread of the Zika virus in other countries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), countries which have reported the Aedes Aegypti mosquito-borne dengue infections face the risk of Zika virus infections. India has, over the years, reported a high number of dengue cases.
Nadda’s decision came hours after World Health Organisation director-general Margaret Chan convened an emergency committee under the international health regulations. “The situation today is dramatically different. Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively,” Chan said in a statement issued to media. The committee will meet in Geneva on February 1 to discuss if Zika transmission should be declared as a public health emergency of international concern.
After the meeting with senior health officials, Nadda said, “We are closely monitoring the situation and all the necessary steps have been initiated to ensure that India is well prepared in case of any eventuality. We are specially focusing on strengthening the surveillance system.”
The National Institute of Virology in Pune is equipped to perform blood tests to detect the presence of Zika virus in patients. Officials from the zoonosis unit of the ministry have written to WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US, seeking guidelines to manage Zika cases. “We are in contact with international agencies to understand the protocols and guidelines we should follow,” said a senior union health official, adding that kits will be procured to better equip other labs in the country to tackle such cases.
The ministry has also directed the official to put in place measures to prevent Aedes Aegypti mosquito breeding.