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Fever patients testing negative for dengue and chikungunya will be tested for Zika virus infection from January-end.
Fever patients testing negative for dengue and chikungunya will be tested for Zika virus infection from January-end.
A network of 32 laboratories spread across the country has been readied for the Zika virus detection. In Maharashtra, Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Nagpur, Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and the Haffkine Institute for Training, Research Testing, Mumbai, and two more government designated sentinel centres are being equipped to function as Zika testing centres in addition to their routine diagnostic work in vector-borne diseases.
 
Accurate estimates of Zika virus infection in India are lacking at present. So far, the country reported only four confirmed cases of the virus infection — three from Ahmedabad and another in Tamil Nadu. The massive surveillance and detection work from January-end is likely to bring forth more cases, say experts.
 
"The identified 32 laboratories are expected to start Zika virus testing as soon as they complete their training at the National Institute of Virology (NIV)'s Pune campus, probably by the end of this month," senior scientist Devendra Mourya, the director of NIV, told TOI.
 
Elaborating on the detection work, Mourya said, "The patients found negative in tests for dengue and chikungunya will be included in testing for Zika infection. Besides, patients conforming to the case definition for probable or suspected Zika virus infection, including ante-natal women and babies with microcephaly (a birth defect where a baby's head is smaller than expected), would be considered for Zika testing."
 
Massive outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika infection occurred in 2015 and subsequent years in Brazil besides many countries worldwide. Investigations revealed that Zika infections during pregnancy carried a high risk of birth defects, especially, microcephaly, in the affected newborns.
 
Soon after, the Union ministry of health and family welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) directed Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) to step up the country's preparedness for dealing with the risk posed by Zika virus.
 
State surveillance officer Pradip Awate said, "The training of the staff at the identified government laboratories is currently under way at NIV. The aim is to strengthen the laboratory facilities so that Zika virus can be detected at the same place where other vector borne diseases, including dengue and chikungunya, are detected."