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Union Health Ministry Issues Advisory Amid Surge in Zika Virus Cases in Maharashtra

Dr. Atul Goel, DGHS, has urged states to enhance vigilance against Zika virus following recent cases in Maharashtra, emphasizing monitoring pregnant women and vector control measures.

Saurabh Shukla
Union Health Ministry Issues Advisory Amid Surge in Zika Virus Cases in Maharashtra (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Union Health Ministry Issues Advisory Amid Surge in Zika Virus Cases in Maharashtra (Photo Source: Pixabay)

In response to recent reports of Zika virus infections in Maharashtra, Dr. Atul Goel, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has issued a directive to state governments highlighting the need for heightened vigilance against the Zika virus across the country.

Zika, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, is similar to dengue and chikungunya. While the disease itself is not fatal, it poses significant risks to pregnant women, potentially leading to microcephaly (reduced head size) and neurological issues in their newborns. This has prompted the DGHS to advise states to closely monitor the situation, especially concerning pregnant women.

Healthcare facilities in affected areas have been instructed to screen pregnant women for Zika virus, monitor the development of fetuses in infected mothers, and follow the guidelines set by the Central Government. Additionally, states have been asked to appoint a nodal officer at health facilities to ensure they remain free of Aedes mosquitoes.

The advisory highlights the need for enhanced entomological surveillance and intensified vector control measures in various settings, including residential areas, workplaces, schools, construction sites, and healthcare facilities. States are also encouraged to spread awareness through social media and other platforms to prevent panic, highlighting that most Zika cases are asymptomatic and mild.

India's first case of Zika was reported in Gujarat in 2016, with subsequent cases emerging in states like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Karnataka. As of July 2, 2024, Maharashtra has reported eight cases from Pune (6), Kolhapur (1), and Sangamner (1).

To ensure timely detection and control of any potential outbreaks, state authorities have been advised to remain vigilant, prepared, and ensure the availability of necessary resources at all levels. Any detected cases must be reported immediately to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC).

Zika testing facilities are available at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi, and selected virus research and diagnostic laboratories of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). High-level reviews are ongoing to monitor the situation.

Earlier this year, DGHS issued an advisory on April 26, while the Director of NCVBDC issued advisories in February and April 2024, warning states about Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.

The Union Health Ministry continues to monitor the Zika virus situation closely, ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to safeguard public health.

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