Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan, who has been in Pune for the last three days visiting scientific institutions, allayed fears about the Zika virus and said that the country is prepared to tackle any outbreak.
“Even when there was a potential threat of the Ebola virus entering the country, we took immediate steps to deal with it,” Harsh Vardhan told reporters on Wednesday after interacting with students and staff at the National Centre for Cell Science here.
The WHO had called an emergency meeting to discuss measures to contain the Zika virus which has now been reported in 24 countries. Prior to being appointed as the Union Minister for Science and Technology, Harsh Vardhan was the Union health minister.
The minister told reporters that India already has a strong integrated disease surveillance network. Speaking about the lurking threat of the polio virus from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Union minister, who played a vital role in making India polio-free, said that WHO had a global action plan in place and systematic efforts have been taken to minimise the risk of reintroduction of wild polioviruses from the laboratory to the community.
After interacting with scientists at institutions like NCCS, Agharkar Research Institute, National Chemical Laboratory and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology during his stay in the city, Harsh Vardhan said that scientists, especially youngsters, need to think out of the box for presenting solutions.
Already 500 start-ups have been supported by the Department of Science and Technology and there is a need for fresh and active brainstorming across the country’s scientific community, The minister said. “We need to get out of a casual attitude and actively contribute with innovative ideas to bring about a breakthrough research for significant diseases,” he said.