World

First Three Cases Of The Zika Virus In India Reported

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The Zika virus has officially reached India.

India reported its first three cases of the Zika virus to the World Health Organization on May 15, reports The Associated Press. Two of the three patients in western Gujarat were pregnant women who delivered healthy babies.

All three of the people infected with the mosquito-borne virus have recovered.

"There is no need to panic," said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a top Health Ministry official.

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One of the pregnant women was 34 years old and gave birth in November 2016 to a healthy baby at a hospital in Ahmadabad, NDTV reports. The other pregnant woman was 22 years old.

In a statement, WHO said the three cases in India were detected through routine blood surveillance conducted in a hospital in Ahmadabad, the capital of Gujarat.

The first case was detected in February 2016, the second in November 2016. The third was detected in January 2017.

All three patients had acquired the infection locally, as none had been abroad, Swaminathan said.

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“These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future,” the WHO said in a statement.

According to the medical journal The Lancet, 2.6 billion people living in parts of Asia and Africa could be at risk of contracting the Zika virus. The estimate was based on an analysis of travel, climate and mosquito patterns in those regions.

Most people who become infected with the Zika virus do not get sick. For those who do, the symptoms are mild, which is why the virus can go undetected. In pregnant woman, it can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly and Guillian-Barre syndrome.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where the head is abnormally small and the brain may not have developed properly. Those affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome have an immune system that attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

Two species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, both of which are active in the daytime, can potentially carry the disease. It can also be spread through sexual contact.

According to NDTV, India has tested almost 50,000 blood samples as part of its system to detect and contain new Zika infections.

All states in India are following standard protocols to avoid an outbreak of the virus, and have received guidelines and an action plan to follow.

In 2016, the WHO declared the spread of the Zika virus a global public health emergency.

The agency has not recommended travel to India be restricted.

Sources: AP, NDTV / Photo credit: US Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons

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