‘Refrain from non-essential travel to Zika-hit areas’

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) The union health ministry has urged deferment or cancellation of non-essential travel to Zika-affected countries as part of its new guidelines to prevent the spread of the viral disease in India.

“Non-essential travel to the affected countries needs to be deferred or cancelled. Pregnant women or ones trying to become pregnant should defer or cancel their travel to the affected areas,” the ministry said in a guideline released here on Tuesday.

However, the guidelines also said people whose trips to Zika-affected countries were very important and they were with co-morbid conditions (diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory illness, Immune disorders etc.) should seek advice from the nearest health facility, prior to their travel.

“Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention about their travel during ante-natal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately,” it said.

Zika virus disease is an emerging viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, also known to transmit infections like dengue and chikungunya.

Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. There is no vaccine or drug available to prevent or treat Zika virus disease at present.

Among the other guidelines, prepared by the health ministry, all International Airports/Ports have been asked to display billboards/ signage providing information to travellers on Zika virus disease and to report to Custom authorities if they were returning from affected countries and suffering from febrile illness.

As per the latest plan of the Airport/Port Health Organisation would have quarantine / isolation facility in identified airports.

World Health Organisation has declared Zika virus disease to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on February 1.

“Directorate General of Civil Aviation will be asked to instruct all international airlines to follow the recommended aircraft disinsection guidelines,” said the list of guidelines.

National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, would be the nodal agency for investigation of outbreak in any part of the country.

Zika virus has spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas. The virus is expected to spread throughout North, Central and South America, except Canada and Chile, and people should check for the latest advice before travelling, a BBC report said.

Though most infections do not result in symptoms, they may include fever, joint pain, itching, rash, conjunctivitis or red eyes, headache, muscle pain and eye pain, it added.

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