Zika virus outbreak suspected in India’s Kerala as first case confirmed, 13 others suspected

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File: An attendant places a mosquito net at an isolation ward for Zika virus patients at a hospital in India’s Ahmedabad city on 27 October 2018 (AFP via Getty Images)
File: An attendant places a mosquito net at an isolation ward for Zika virus patients at a hospital in India’s Ahmedabad city on 27 October 2018 (AFP via Getty Images)

The southern Indian state of Kerala has confirmed its first case of Zika virus – a mosquito-borne disease – in a 24-year-old pregnant woman who is in a stable condition.

The woman, a resident of Parassala town, was admitted to a hospital in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram on 28 June with symptoms like mild fever, rashes on her body and a headache.

State health minister Veena George said that after the woman tested positive for the virus after initial tests at the hospital, her samples were sent for confirmation to the National Institute of Virology in Maharashtra state.

The woman delivered her baby on 7 July. She did not travel outside Kerala, but the government said her house is on the state’s border with neighbouring Tamil Nadu. The government said the woman’s mother had also shown similar symptoms a week earlier.

Kerala has sent 19 samples to the National Institute of Virology and Ms George told news agency PTI that 13 of them are suspected to be positive for Zika.

The Zika virus is transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquito, which is also known to transmit infections like dengue and chikungunya.

Symptoms are generally mild and last for two to seven days. These include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache, according to the World Health Organisation.

There is no treatment available for the Zika virus infection or its associated diseases, it said.

The UN health agency said that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly – a defect where the baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to those of the same sex and age – and other congenital abnormalities in the developing foetus and newborn.

Kerala said immediate steps were taken after the first case was confirmed. The state has sounded an alert across all districts and asked people to take precautions against mosquito bites.

Public health expert B Ekbal told The Hindu newspaper that it was only a matter of time before Zika was reported in Kerala because the mosquito is found in high density in the state.

The Zika virus case comes at a time when Kerala is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19 and reporting high daily cases. The state reported over 13,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

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