By Ila Ananya
Did you know that three cases of Zika were confirmed in Ahmedabad in January and February this year?
If you didn’t, it’s because the Indian government kept silent about the cases for nearly six months after they were detected. On Thursday, 1st June, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare put out a press release about the virus in India, claiming that since the World Health Organisation (WHO) had withdrawn its notification about it being a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern,’ they handled the cases according to existing protocol. This only came after WHO made public a note about the cases on 26th May.
As though it was doing a general, earnest public service, the government also went on to claim they’d done this in order to “avoid panic”.
But Menaka Rao, writing for Scroll.in, of course, has found that even existing protocol wasn’t followed, as the press release claimed. According to guidelines, the press was supposed to be informed immediately, followed by regular briefings, none of which were done. There also needed to be a more intense fever surveillance around the affected area, with health authorities going to schools and workplaces and homes to make people aware of Zika, which wasn’t done, since local authorities hadn’t known about the cases in the first place. Bednets, which Rao said were supposed to be given were provided, but claimed to be for a malaria control programme.
For now, the United Kingdom has classified India as having a “moderate risk” of Zika virus transmission, advising pregnant women to avoid travelling here. Everyone in India itself should have known what’s happening sooner too.