GUWAHATI: Assam has sounded an alert on a possible Zika virus outbreak in the state after Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh reported an explosion in cases.
The state health department will direct all district health authorities to test samples of suspected Zika-infected people who have arrived from the areas where the fresh infection has set alarm bells in the country.
State programme officer (SPO) of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Assam, Harpal Singh Suri, on Sunday told TOI that it had already directed the districts to report suspected Zika infection cases which have two-week travel history from Kerala and Pune. State health department sources said a committee to monitor Zika infection has been constituted in Assam. “We are going to issue a fresh directive to test people for possible infections from Zika-affected areas wherever new cases have been detected,” said Suri. Medical college hospitals and laboratories have also been instructed to investigate the blood samples to identify the infection. Health officials said in Assam no Zika case has been detected till now. Nevertheless, the late surge in Covid cases as compared to central India last year has been a lesson for the northeast and the state is on alert. “We need to be vigilant to check Zika outbreak anywhere in the region,” said Suri.
Official: Dengue-causing Aedes mosquito also carrier of Zika
He said fever, skin rashes, muscle ache, pain in the joints, eye infection and headaches are among the common symptoms of Zika infection. “If the child is born with microcephaly or a brain defect like a small head, both mother and child need to be tested,” Suri said.
He noted that Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder, can be associated with Zika. “Recent myelitis cases with paralysis is another symptom of Zika infection,” he added.
Health officials raised concern that the Aedes mosquito, which causes dengue, is also the carrier of the virus. “If an Aedes mosquito bites a Zika-infected person, it can carry the infection to another person,” said Suri.
Rise in dengue cases in Assam, as compared to last year, has also increased the threat of Zika infection in cities like Guwahati. While the state reported around 30 cases last year, this year it has doubled to around 63. “In order to get relief from Zika, utmost importance should be given to cleanliness at home and the neighbourhood,” he added.
Health officials, however, added that the significant fall in dengue cases over the years in Assam is a relief. In 2019, Assam reported 196 cases, whereas in the past, 2,000 to 6,000 cases was detected. “Eradication of dengue will help in fighting Zika,” Suri said.


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