India is set to issue an advisory on Saturday for pregnant women travelling to the 24 countries that have been affected by the Zika virus. It will also begin screening travellers coming from South and Central Americas and the Caribbean from early next week. The travellers will be asked to report if they exhibit symptoms like fever, body rash, conjunctivitis and joint and muscle pain within two weeks of travel.
The deadly virus is expected to affect four million people, said World Health Organisation; and the speedy spread of the disease has set alarm bells ringing as it is affecting the health of newborns. The virus causes microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads due to brain damage.
Samples examined for the presence of Zika virus in India have tested negative, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad told The Times of India on Friday.
"Very often, it has been seen that the samples that are positive for dengue virus also have chikungunya virus in them. Both are transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. After the recent scare, virologists at National Institute of Virology in Pune screened the dengue virus samples for Zika. The results were negative," Prasad told the daily.
Union Health Minister JP Nadda on Friday said that formation of a group to monitor the spread of Zika in India has been ordered. He was speaking at a meeting with officials of the health ministry and AIIMS.
Nadda said that India is monitoring the situation and is prepared for any eventuality.
"We are focusing on especially strengthening the surveillance system...Community awareness plays an instrumental role in this regard. There is a need for greater awareness amongst community," he added.
Zika, which was detected in May 2014, is said to have spread to several countries in the last six months.
Here's the list of countries that have been hit by the Zika virus:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Martin
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Cape Verde