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WHO calls for decisive action to tackle Zika virus

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) asked countries across its South-East Asia Region, including India, to continue to take decisive action to prevent, detect and respond to Zika virus even as Thailand confirmed two cases of Zika-related microcephaly.

Zika virus infection is a serious threat to the health and well-being of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

Countries across the Region must continue to strengthen measures aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to Zika virus transmission, said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.

Thailand has confirmed two cases of Zika-related microcephaly, which, along with other neurological disorders, can occur when a neonate has been exposed to Zika virus in utero.

The Thai authorities have been active in detecting and responding to Zika virus.

"Thailand's diligence underscores the commitment of health authorities to the health and well-being of the Thai public, and provides a positive example to be emulated," Singh said.

The presence of Zika virus in the WHO South-East Asia Region has been documented in recent years, including from Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives and Bangladesh.

Since a Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared in February, WHO has been working with countries across the Region, including India, to strengthen Zika virus and birth-defect surveillance, enhance vector surveillance and control and scale-up laboratory capacity among others.

In addition to official efforts, WHO has been urging householders and community groups to be on the frontlines of mosquito control.

Controlling mosquito populations is crucial to diminishing Zika virus transmission as well as the transmission of other vector-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

Alongside government efforts, householders are encouraged to disrupt standing water that can gather in gutters, pot plants and spare or discarded tires, and to dispose of household waste in sealed plastic bags, Singh said.

Dengue has affected 45,490 people across India and claimed 88 lives this year, while over 19,617 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in various states across the country.

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