INDIA – The World Health Organization has released a press statement warning of Zika virus outbreak in India after a 24-year old pregnant tested positive for the virus in Kerala state, south-west India.

According to the WHO’s health officials, this is the first Zika case confirmed in Kerala. The infection was confirmed in a laboratory using Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing in the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune.

A pregnant 24-year-old woman was found to be infected with the mosquito-borne disease and was being treated at a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.

Pregnant women are especially vulnerable because they can pass the infection on to their newborns, resulting in life-altering conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare auto-immune disease.

Since then, Indian health officials have tested 19 more people, including hospital staff and patients who experienced fever, myalgia, arthralgia, and petechial lesions.

The collected blood samples were sent to a laboratory for testing, and 13 of them tested positive for Zika.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito, but it can also be transmitted sexually.

Although ZIKV is primarily transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, it can also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy, transfusion of blood and blood products, and organ transplantation.

The virus was discovered in monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947 and has since caused several outbreaks around the world. There are no vaccines or anti-viral drugs available for prevention or treatment.

Fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, and muscle and joint pain are among the symptoms, but fatalities are uncommon. Symptoms can last anywhere from two to seven days, though the majority of infections do not.

Pregnant women are especially vulnerable because infection can result in microcephaly and other birth defects known as congenital Zika syndrome.

Zika infections, according to the WHO, have also been linked to other complications such as preterm birth and miscarriage.

India also experienced Zika outbreaks in 2017 and 2018, with hundreds of cases reported in western Gujarat, Rajasthan, and central Madhya Pradesh state, but this is the first infection in Kerala.

A number of measures have been put in place by the Kerala Health Department and local officials to prevent the virus from spreading. These include blood donation restrictions and screening for microcephaly during ultrasounds.

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