The World Health Organization has confirmed that a small number of Zika cases have been discovered in India, where four women were discovered with the disease. Two of them did give birth to healthy children, so authorities hope the cases have been contained.
“There is no need to panic,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a top health ministry official, told reporters. The doctor is affirming that none of the patients with the virus have travelled abroad anywhere. She says the infection was acquired locally as well.
However, the World Health Organization does state that “These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future.”
The AP reports:
The World Health Organization said in a statement released Friday that the three cases that India reported to the WHO on May 15 were detected through routine blood surveillance in a hospital in Ahmadabad, Gujarat’s capital. Two cases were detected in February and November last year, while a third case was detected in January this year.
Swaminathan, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research, said the three patients had not traveled overseas and had acquired the infection locally.
The virus is spread by the daytime-active Aedes mosquito.
Although Zika was first identified in 1947, the virus wasn’t considered a major health threat until a major outbreak in Brazil in 2015 revealed that Zika can lead to severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected.
The WHO says although Zika symptoms are mild and no deaths have been reported globally, it sometimes causes complications including microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Babies born to Zika-infected mothers have been found to have microcephaly, or a birth defect where the head is abnormally small and brains might not have developed properly. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
The WHO said the three were the first cases of Zika virus infections from India and provided evidence on the presence of the virus in the country.
“These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future,” it said.
WHO said there was significant risk of the further spread of the virus and recommended that governments push ahead with efforts to control of mosquitoes.
However, the agency did not recommend any curbs on travel to India.
Last year, WHO declared the spread of Zika a global public health emergency.