The World Health Organization has just announced India’s three cases of Zika virus, recorded from February 2016 to January this year.
The cases of the virus, which had been linked to severe birth defects including microcephaly, were confirmed by the country’s health ministry to have occurred in the city of Ahmedabad in western Gujarat.
Is The Government Lying?
Some public health experts, however, were puzzled as to why the public wasn’t informed immediately after the Zika cases were detected, BBC News reported.
Professor Rajib Dasgupta from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi called it “disturbing” and a source of “a lot of ethical issues.”
“This is unprecedented in India’s public health history … You have to take the community into confidence. You can do it without spreading panic. That is the job of a sound public health policy,” Dasgupta said in the report.
According to critics, the junior health minister said on March 17 in response to an inquiry in the parliament that so far, there has only been one case of lab-positive Zika detected as part of routine lab surveillance in January. The third and final case were found in the same month.
In defense, an Indian health official said there was only one confirmed case detected while the said minister was talking to the parliament.
India is deemed fairly strong in its public health response to issues such as dengue and chikungunya, giving the public regular updates on the diseases. Zika, coming from the same mosquito transmitting the two conditions widespread around the nation, can also be sexually transmitted.
The first Indian case of Zika virus was detected during routine lab surveillance, from the sample of a 64-year-old male who had been sick for eight days. The second case, on the other hand, came months later in November after a woman gave birth to a healthy baby.
Most recently, the third case came out of a clinic testing where one sample from a 22-year-old woman turned out positive. She was 37 weeks pregnant back then.
India And The Threat Of Zika
Some local media noted that the government likely delayed announcing the confirmed Zika cases because the state was hosting a major international business summit back in January to get investments.
This has been denied by representatives from the local government. At present, national guidelines have been disseminated across Indian states to prevent a Zika outbreak. An inter-ministerial task force has also been formed to track emerging cases and to review the global situation.
“When Zika virus cases were reported last year in some countries, we had then issued directions to our civil surgeons to remain alert and focus on prevention and control of mosquitoes,” said Dr. Gagandeep Singh Grover, nodal officer of Punjab’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Program, in an Indian Express report. “We will again issue fresh directions now.”
WHO continues to keep watch of the situation in India, advising people in high-risk places and travelers to take the necessary precautions. These steps include using insect repellents, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. No trade or travel restrictions have been placed on India yet.
In the United States, different states have been ramping up their efforts to fight the virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses as warm weather approaches.