The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has issued a warning to pregnant women against travelling to Rajasthan and surrounding states due to an outbreak of the Zika virus.
According to The World Health Organisation (WHO), as of 2 November 2018, 157 cases have been identified in India, including 63 pregnant women. Before this outbreak, India reported four confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in 2017, three cases in Ahmedabad Gujarat and one case in Krishnagiri District of Tamil Nadu.
The CDC, in an advisory issued on 13 December, stated the virus was endemic to India and pointed out “there is an unusual increase in the number of Zika cases in Rajasthan and surrounding states”. Cautioning pregnant women from visiting the state, the advisory said, “This is because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects”.
According to the CDC, women considering pregnancy should wait at least three months after returning to the US from Zika-affected areas before attempting to conceive, the advisory said. Men should wait for three months because Zika can stay in semen longer than in other body fluids, it said.
How tourism will be affected
According to an Indian Express report, tourism in Rajasthan might be affected due to the advisory. The alert comes at the time when it is tourist season in the state — from October to March. Between these months, events such as the Pushkar fair, Jaipur Literature Festival, Holi and Gangaur fair in Jaipur generally attract large numbers of tourists
In December 2017, Rajasthan saw a total tourist footfall of 35 lakh, including the Indian and foreign tourists, according to the state tourism department. The tourism industry in the state is bracing for the impact that the alert might have on it. The number of tourists may be much less this year.
Even in popular travel websites like TripAdvisor, the question of whether Rajasthan is safe to visit or not has been asked multiple times.
The first case in Rajasthan surfaced on 22 September. The virus, although discovered in 1947 in the forests of Uganda, came to prominence in 2015 when pregnant Brazilian women infected with the virus gave birth to babies with abnormally small heads that are normally associated with incomplete brain development (also called microcephaly). It was later linked to another debilitating condition Guillain–Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system, that can even lead to paralysis.
The virus, transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain. A Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with microcephaly and other congenital malformations, known as congenital Zika syndrome. Infection with Zika virus is also associated with other complications of pregnancy, including preterm birth and miscarriage.
With inputs from agencies
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