India forms panel to monitor Zika

Centre takes step following WHO alert

India forms panel to monitor Zika

Acting swiftly on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) warning over the spread of Zika virus, India on Friday formed a technical group to closely monitor the situation and began an exercise to issue a travel advisory soon.

The government also decided to strengthen its surveillance system and plan preventive measures with an increased focus on prevention to control the spread of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that breeds in clean water.

This came at a high-level meeting held here to discuss the recent cases of Zika virus spread being reported from South America and the US and prepare a strategy. The meeting, attended by senior doctors from the All India institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) among others, was presided over by Health Minister J P Nadda.

Aedes Aegypti mosquito carries Zika virus which is suspected to cause brain damage in babies. Zika virus is also believed to cause neurological problems like microcephaly, a condition of abnormally small head in babies. The outbreak began in Brazil last year and has now spread to 24 countries in the Americas.

The WHO on Thursday issued a warning on the spread of Zika virus to all countries, including India.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and all necessary steps have been initiated to ensure that India is well prepared in case of any eventuality. The ministry is in the process of issuing a travel advisory which will, among other issues, advise pregnant women against travelling to affected countries,” said Nadda.

The technical group, to be constituted, will be giving its opinion on what precautionary measures needs to be taken, said an official.

“There should be an increased focus on prevention to control the spread of the Aedes mosquito that breeds in clean water. Community awareness plays an instrumental role,” Nadda added.

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