USA modifies Zika travel advisory to India

Zika virus strain isolated from Rajasthan matches with the Brazilian Zika strain. Pune-based National Institute of Virology has initiated animal studies to understand the potential of this virus to cause microcephaly.

Nearly six months after it was issued, the USA has modified its Zika travel advisory to India, following a prod from the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Between September to November 2018, India witnessed an outbreak of Zika virus disease in Jaipur as well as Bhopal and its neighbouring districts in Madhya Pradesh.

While the outbreaks were contained by November end, a travel advisory issued in December 2018 by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described India as a country with ongoing Zika outbreak.

The advisory further cautioned pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks.

On instructions from the Health Ministry, ICMR took up the issue with the CDC. Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research and ICMR director general wrote to his counterpart in the CDC and providing the US health agency with evidence of how the outbreak was effectively contained by November 2018. 

“The communication was successful in ensuring modification of the travel advisory on March 27, 2019. The status of India has now been changed from 'ongoing outbreak' to 'current or past transmission but no current outbreak,” ICMR says in a statement on Monday.

Zika virus strain isolated from Rajasthan matches with the Brazilian Zika strain. Pune-based National Institute of Virology has initiated animal studies to understand the potential of this virus to cause microcephaly.

While preliminary reports suggest the absence of one known mutation linked with microcephaly, studies are currently going on for further characterisation of the strain.

ICMR has also initiated a study to understand the outcomes of pregnancy of women infected with Zika and the occurrence of congenital Zika syndrome and other neurological malformations in the newborns.

The study is being rolled out in Rajasthan in the first week of April and in Bhopal by end of April, says the ICMR statement.

Attempts are also being made to expedite the Phase II Zika vaccine clinical trials of Bharat Biotech International Ltd.

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USA modifies Zika travel advisory to India

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