India is dealing with its largest ever outbreak of the Zika virus

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  • On 9 October, officials from the health department of Rajasthan confirmed that there had been 29 verified cases of the Zika virus in the state.
  • The first case of Zika was reported on 23 September in an 85-year old patient at the at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Jaipur.
  • The virus, which is transferred through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes fever and rashes and is particularly harmful to pregnant women, as it can lead to microcephaly in newborn children.

India’s has seen its fair share of epidemic scares in recent years.

In late 2014, the Ebola virus, which plagued West Africa for the better part of the year’s second half, reached New Delhi when a man tested positive for the disease after landing from Liberia. In 2017, three people in Gujarat tested positive for the Zika virus, which spread through South America in 2015 and 2016, affecting pregnant mothers. Earlier this year, in June, the state of Kerala was on high alert after 17 people died of the Nipah virus, which spreads from fruit bats.

Last month, the Zika virus reared its head again, and this time it's quickly become the largest outbreak ever of the disease in India. On 9 October, officials from the health department of Rajasthan confirmed that there had been 29 verified cases of the Zika virus in the state. Following the news, the central government’s health ministry tried to assuage fears by claiming that the outbreak was under control.

The first case of Zika was reported on 23 September in an 85-year old patient at the at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Jaipur. The virus, which is transferred through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes fever and rashes and is particularly harmful to pregnant women, as it can lead to microcephaly in newborn children.

A majority of the current cases are limited to one particular area in Jaipur- Shastri Nagar. Since the first case was reported, the state government of Rajasthan has said it has tried to contain the damage while monitoring the full extent of the problem. It has placed more than 90 pregnant under watch, while checking 26,000 households and destroying 29,000 breeding grounds for mosquitoes in the locality, according to Veenu Gupta, a secretary in the state’s health ministry.

For its part, the central government has also sent a team comprising officials from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme to Jaipur to keep tabs on the situation and assist state government officials. Around five labs have been set up all over the state to test blood samples from patients suspected of contracting the virus.
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