High alert in Kerala after Zika outbreak, 14 cases confirmed

Updated on Jul 09, 2021 08:20 PM IST

Grappling with a heavy caseload of Covid-19, Kerala has been put on high alert after the Zika virus outbreak

High alert in Kerala after Zika outbreak, 14 cases confirmed
High alert in Kerala after Zika outbreak, 14 cases confirmed

Grappling with a heavy caseload of Covid-19, Kerala has been put on high alert after the Zika virus outbreak. The Union government has rushed a team of experts to the state. At least 14 cases have been confirmed, said the state health ministry.

A 24-year-old pregnant woman from Parasala in Thiruvananthapuram district was the first to test positive for Zika on Thursday, later 13 others were added to the list. Of the 19 samples sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, 14 were found to be positive. Health minister Veena George later called an emergency meeting and an action plan was formulated.

“We have started a vigorous vector control programme and the whole state was alerted. We are monitoring the situation closely and more testing labs will be opened,” said the minister, adding that there is no need for panic. The woman has no travel history and it is suspected that she was infected locally.

Health officials said samples were sent to the NIV last week and the mother gave birth normally on July 7, both mother and child are stable. At least 60 other samples were sent to Pune and health authorities are busy making arrangements to test samples at the NIV regional centre in Alappuzha.

A surveillance team, vector control experts and entomology units visited the area where the woman lived and took precautions to prevent further spread.

The health authorities hoped that further spread could be contained with an utmost vigil as all the patients lived not far from the house of the initial patient. Some of the affected are health workers. “They were all working at a private hospital. We will check their travel history and take immediate action,” the minister said.

In Delhi, health joint secretary Lav Agarwal said a 6-member expert team has been rushed to help the state. “The six-member team includes vector-borne disease experts and doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences,” he said.

The virus is mostly spread by mosquitoes, though it can also be sexually transmitted, said experts. However, few people die from Zika and only one in five develops symptoms. The symptoms of the disease, first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947 and the first human reported from Nigeria in 1954, include joint pain, fever and headache. In May 2015, it was reported in Brazil and spread rapidly. It leads to shrunken brain in children and a rare auto-immune disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, experts said, adding it was first reported in the country in Gujarat in 2017.

Meanwhile, the state’s Covid-19 cases remain quite high. On Friday, Kerala reported 13,563 new cases of Covid-19 with a high test positivity rate of 10.4 per cent. For almost a month the state has been reporting the highest number of cases in the country. It also reported 130 deaths taking the toll to 14,380.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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