14 Zika cases were detected in Kerala in southern India amid another surge in Covid-19 infections, which led the region to issue a statewide alert
A 24-year-old woman who had just given birth was confirmed to have the Zika virus on Thursday, becoming Kerala’s first case of the mosquito-borne disease. Thirteen more cases were detected on Friday, Kerala’s Health Minister Veena George said.
“We have 14 cases in Thiruvananthapuram district. The first case was a woman who travelled to the city for her delivery and the 13 others are healthcare workers,” Ms George told The National.
“This year we had a lesser number of other infections such as dengue but now with Zika, it is a worry and we have intensified vector control, especially in pregnant women. The health system is on high alert,” she said.
All the cases are being treated at a hospital in the capital Thiruvananthapuram and are reported to be stable.
The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito species and through sexual contact, according to the World Health Organization.
The virus was first identified in monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947 and several outbreaks have been reported across the globe. Scientists have not been able to produce a vaccine or treatment.
India has witnessed several Zika outbreaks in recent years, including in 2017 and 2018 when hundreds of people were infected in the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The virus causes fever, rashes, conjunctivitis and muscle and joint pain, but fatalities are rare.
However, it raises the risk of preterm deliveries and of babies being born with microcephaly — smaller than normal heads. Zika infections have also been associated with a rare autoimmune condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Ms George said the pregnant woman was admitted to hospital last week after developing fever, headache and rashes. She delivered a healthy baby boy on Wednesday.
She had no travel history but her mother was found to have exhibited similar symptoms in recent weeks.
The infected healthcare workers include some doctors.
The Zika outbreak comes as Kerala is grappling with a surge in Covid-19 cases. The state reported more than 13,000 Covid-19 infections on Friday, more than a quarter of the 43,500 confirmed cases detected nationwide in the previous 24 hours.
India’s first case of coronavirus was detected in Kerala in January 2020. The pandemic has claimed more than 405,000 lives in the country, most of them after the onset of a deadly second wave in March, with Kerala accounting for about 14,250 deaths.