Zika virus detected in India’s Kerala state

Authorities in India’s southern Kerala region have issued a statewide alert after a case of the Zika virus was confirmed, officials said Friday.

A further 13 suspected cases were being investigated, state health minister Veena George said.

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

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable and can transmit the infection to their newborns which can result in life-altering conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare auto-immune disease.

Samples from the 13 suspected cases have been sent for further investigation to a lab in Pune, the minister added.

Zika is mostly spread through the bite of the Aedes mosquito but can also be sexually transmitted, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947 and has caused several outbreaks across the world in recent decades.

No vaccines or anti-viral drugs are available as prevention or cure.

Symptoms include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis and muscle, and joint pain, but fatalities are rare.

Officials said the infected woman had shown symptoms including fever, headache, and rashes before being admitted to a hospital, where she safely delivered a baby on Wednesday.

Health teams have been assigned to the area to monitor for any further cases.

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

The state is currently a battling a surge in Covid-19 cases, with more than 13,000 infections recorded on Friday, the highest number of any Indian state.

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