India has detected its first cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, with three people, including a pregnant woman, reporting the infection in Ahmedabad, the World Health organisation (WHO) said on Saturday.
The cases were reported from the Bapunagar area of Gujarat’s largest city. The first infection was detected in February last year, the second in November and the latest one this January.
No new cases of the non-fatal disease have since been found.
The WHO termed the findings “low-level transmission” but warned that new cases of the disease linked to babies born with underdeveloped brains could occur in the future.
In this August 24, 2016 file photo, Aedes Aegypti mosquito larvae swim in a container at the Florida Mosquito Control District Office in Marathon. (AP)
The UN agency said the cases were picked up during random monitoring and surveillance at the BJ Medical College in Ahmedabad. The patients were a 64-year-old man, a 34-year-old new mother and a 22-year-old pregnant woman.
“We were concerned about the babies. Luckily, both mothers and the babies are fine,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told Hindustan Times.
“The third case was of a man with fever, who tested negative for both dengue and chikungunya but positive for Zika.”
The virus is transmitted by aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya.
In pregnant women, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly — unusually small heads — and other brain abnormalities in babies in the womb. The infection can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes paralysis.
There is no treatment or vaccine for the Zika infection.
The virus can show symptoms such as mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. But only about 20% of patients show symptoms that usually last up to a week.
As standard protocol, the Indian health ministry informed the WHO about the cases on May 15.
The Gujarat government said all three patients had recovered.
“The situation is under control. All the necessary steps have been taken and since then no fresh cases have been reported,” minister of state for health Shankar Chaudhary told HT.
The central government has shared with states an action plan to prevent an outbreak of Zika. A team of officials has been put together to monitor the situation. The ICMR has so far tested 34,233 samples for Zika.
“We had also expanded the mosquito testing network after the cases were reported but luckily none of the mosquito pools tested positive for the virus. We will continue the surveillance,” said Dr Swaminathan.