With the country facing an onslaught of dengue and chikungunya cases, the Union health ministry has started a first-of-its-kind initiative to check mosquitoes for zika. All three diseases are spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Health Minister J P Nadda on Friday said that the Indian Council of Medical Research has so far checked about 6,000 mosquitoes for the zika virus, which has been associated with microcephaly (reduced size of head) in babies born to mothers affected by the disease. None has been found to be positive.
The apex medical research body has also tested 15,022 humans, including athletes returning from the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. All tests so far have been negative. “National guidelines for zika have been finalised and shared with states and airports are geared for surveillance. We are also testing mosquitoes and humans for the disease and are ready with contingency plans,” Nadda said.
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A senior official in the ministry explained that mosquitoes are caught and smashed in clusters of 25, which is then subjected to RT-PCR, a test common to dengue, chikungunya and zika. Under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, microcephaly is being monitored in 55 sentinel sites. Between February and August 2016, 165 cases were detected. There is no increased incidence or cluster incidence reported so far in the data.
Apart from zika infection, an abnormally small head size in an infant is associated with a host of genetic conditions including Down’s Syndrome, Edward Syndrome, Poland Syndrome. The ministry is in the process of developing a comprehensive zika strategic response framework within 10 days, which will include doctor training, said officials.