Gujarat Government Denies Cover-Up In Reporting Zika Cases

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government denied allegations of a cover-up after the World Health Organisation yesterday disclosed three positive cases of the Zika virus in the state, which were the first such reported cases in the country. The Gujarat government has been subject to criticism over alleged delays in reporting the incident. However, health officials said that the three cases were reported from November, 2016, till February, 2017, and necessary steps had been initiated once the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) alerted about the positive samples.

“We had teams of around 350 people who carried out large scale surveillance in the Bapunagar area, where the patients belonged to,” said health secretary JP Gupta.

The government also said that Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel had informed parliament about the case. Records, however, suggest that she had reported about one of the three cases.

The first of these cases was reported in November, 2016, when a 34-year-old woman, who had just delivered a baby, tested positive for Zika. The second case was that of a 22-year-old pregnant woman whereas the third case was that of a 64-year-old man.

When asked about the ignorance of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation regarding the three incidents, the government said the civic body was not informed to avoid panic. Officials of the municipal body – which is responsible for handling health mechanism of the city – claimed that they came to know about the Zika cases on the WHO website yesterday.

“Since they were just isolated cases – not connected to each other – and there was no outbreak, we didn’t inform the civic body about the specific samples testing positive for Zika virus to avoid panic,” said Mr Gupta.
“Though on ground, we ensured that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation teams carried out the surveillance on protocol associated with the virus cases,” he added.

ICMR chief Dr Soumya Swaminathanhad said that there was no reason to panic as all the patients have recovered. This was reiterated by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who said that no new cases have been reported in the recent past.

“There is no need to panic and no new cases have been reported after January,” Mr Rupani said.

Doctors in Ahmedabad, however, claimed that a timely detection could have made them more cautious.

“For any disease, if alert is timely issued, it can ensure doctors and people are more aware, more vigilant… There should have been more proactive approach to report it,” said Dr Pragnesh Vacchrajani, former chief of the Ahmedabad Medical Association.

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