AIIMS-Bhopal has sent blood samples of people found positive for Zika virus in Madhya Pradesh to National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, to ascertain whether the virus strain is the same as the one that infected patients in Jaipur, an ICMR official said Saturday.
If the strain is found to be the same as the one detected in Jaipur, it will be established that the virus was transported by someone who travelled from Jaipur to Madhya Pradesh, the official said.
Also, an analysis of Zika virus strains collected from Jaipur, the centre of the latest outbreak of the disease in north India, has suggested they do not have the known mutations linked to foetal microcephaly, a serious birth defect in newborns delivered by infected mothers, according to the Health Ministry.
The number of Zika cases has mounted to 127 in Madhya Pradesh, including the death of two people who had tested positive for the virus.
The deceased an 18-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were suffering from the infection and other "serious" diseases. Therefore, it cannot be said that they died due to Zika , officials had clarified.
Of the 127 people, 40 are pregnant women, the official said.
People have tested positive for Zika virus in seven districts of Madhya Pradesh. This includes 44 cases reported from Bhopal, 20 from Sehore, 29 from Vidisha, two each from Sagar and Hoshangabad, and one each from Narsinghpur and Raisen.
A central team is reviewing the situation and assisting the Madhya Pradesh government to replicate measures and the action plan implemented in Jaipur and Ahmedabad to contain the disease, the ICMR official said.
Jaipur has reported 159 cases of Zika infections while Ahmedabad has reported one case so far.
In India, the first outbreak of the Zika virus was reported in Ahmedabad in January 2017 and the second in Tamil Nadu's Krishnagiri district in July that year. Both these outbreaks were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.
During the latest outbreak of the virus in the country, the first case surfaced on September 22, when an 85-year-old woman tested positive for the virus in Jaipur. Since then, the number of Zika cases have risen to 153 in Rajasthan.
In Madhya Pradesh, an intensive screening exercise is underway and vector control measures have been intensified. The government has issued an advisory to district administrations to take steps to check mosquito breeding.
The state health department has advised pregnant women not to visit the affected areas.
The Zika virus, transmitted through the aedes aegypti mosquito, causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain.
It is harmful to pregnant women, as they can pass the infection to her foetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth leading to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby's head is significantly smaller than expected.
The disease is under surveillance of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the WHO notification since November 18, 2016.