EVEN AS the Gujarat government started to equip four laboratories in the state — at the government hospitals in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot — with facilities to test for Zika virus as early as in February last year, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) was not informed about the detection of the virus.
“The AMC was involved in the surveillance but was not told that it was for Zika. There were 1,000 people involved in the entire surveillance, and it was similar to the dengue and chikungunya surveillance. In order to avoid panic, the AMC authorities were not told about the Zika virus,” said J P Gupta, Commissioner of Health, Gujarat.
“What report are you talking about? We have not done anything regarding the Zika virus,” said Dr Bhavin Joshi, Additional Medical Officer, AMC, when asked about the WHO report.
When contacted, Dr Vijay Kohli, entomologist, AMC, said: “I also read the report a few hours ago and am not equipped with information at the moment. All I can say is that we have to make sure that the surveillance is better and we must work towards eradicating the mosquitoes. Ahmedabad has always been the first to report outbreaks. So, either we have a lot of illnesses, or we are reporting better than other states.”
“We need to be vigilant now. The Zika and dengue virus is the same. So it will be easy for Zika to spread. We must have a surveillance system in place. The government has been pushing the malaria campaign when it should have targeted all non-communicable diseases,” said Dr Deepak B Saxena, Additional Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar.
The Gujarat government launched a campaign to ‘free Gujarat from malaria by 2022’, in Ahmedabad on May 24.
“While Zika is not dangerous, it is alarming because we have a large population and it will not take time for it to spread. The vector is the Aedes mosquito, which is found in plenty across the country,” said Dr Harsh Toshniwal, specialist on infectious diseases.
“Zika is also sexually transmitted. Pregnant women are at danger, because the virus is transmitted to the foetus,” said Dr Toshniwal.
Manoj Gangal, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport director, said necessary precautions have been taken at the airport. “We have a thermal scanner in place at the arrival terminal. We have put up information and alerts about the virus at strategic locations in the airport.”