Indian state detects 14 Zika virus cases

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Health authorities in India's southern state of Kerala are on alert after 14 cases of the Zika virus were detected in the region, an official says.

"Zika virus disease is reported in Kerala for the first time. The first case was that of a pregnant woman who is 23 years old," Kerala's Health Minister Veena George said.

"The mother delivered a baby and both the mother and baby are keeping well".

She added that the National Institute of Virology had confirmed another 13 cases out of the 19 samples sent to them on suspicion.

"Most of them are health workers and all the cases have been reported from the Thiruvananthapuram district (capital)," George said.

Authorities have issued a health alert after holding a series of high-level meetings with experts and officials, said the minister, adding that the government was closely monitoring the health of pregnant women.

According to Indian government data, the first Zika outbreak in the country was detected in the city of Ahmedabad in the western Gujarat province in January 2017, followed by another outbreak in July 2017 in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu (south).

In 2018, authorities confirmed 29 cases of Zika in Jaipur, capital of the northwestern Rajasthan province.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect that carries Chikungunya and dengue fever, and can also spread by sex among humans.

The illness can cause fever, reddened eyes, skin rashes and, less often, muscular and joint pain.

Zika is not generally a fatal disease but women who become sick in their first trimester of pregnancy have been found to give birth to babies with abnormally small skulls, a condition known as microcephaly.

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