WHO flags Zika concern; India prepared, says Govt

RSTV Bureau
File photo of Union Health Minister J P Nadda. Photo - PTI

File photo of Union Health Minister J P Nadda.
Photo – PTI

Monitoring the situation arising out of spread of Zika virus, Centre has constituted a technical group to strengthen further its surveillance system. Global body WHO had on Thursday warned that the virus was spreading “explosively” and can affect countries like India. The virus is believed to cause brain damage among the new born and infants.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda held a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation in view of the recent cases of Zika virus being reported from some countries.

Affirming that India is “well prepared” in case of any eventuality, JP Nadda said, “We are closely monitoring the situation and all necessary steps have been initiated to ensure that India is well prepared in case of any eventuality.”

Zika virus, which is thought to cause brain damage in babies, is usually transmitted by the mosquito bite of Aedes Aegypti mosquito. According to the reports, this mosquito also carries the viruses that cause Dengue and Chikungunya which are of great public health concern especially in India.

The Health Minister also emphasised on an increased focus on prevention to control the spread of the Aedes mosquito that breeds in clean water.

“Community awareness plays an instrumental role in this regard. There is a need for greater awareness amongst community,” he said.

The outbreak began in Brazil last year and has now spread to 24 countries in the Americas. Zika virus is believed to cause neurological problems like microcephaly, a condition of abnormally small head in babies.

Earlier on Thursday, World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a warning that Zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and can infect up to four million people. Such is the level of alarm that many American countries like El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador have urged women to postpone pregnancy till 2018.

WHO chief Margaret Chan has called for an emergency meeting on February 1 on the outbreak of the virus.

“The level of alarm is extremely high,” Chan said, adding that the meeting of WHO’s Emergency Committee on Monday will seek to determine if the outbreak qualifies as an international public health emergency.

Marcos Espinal, the head of communicable diseases and health analysis at the WHO’s Americas office, said the region should expect “three to four million cases” of Zika, without proving a timeframe for the outbreak to ramp up to that level.

Following its initial discovery in a monkey in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947, the disease “slumbered” and “occasionally caused a mild disease of low concern,” in humans, Chan said.

“The situation today is dramatically different,” she said highlighting the growing concern over Zika’s possible link to microcephaly and a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

(With inputs from PTI)