Officials in India knew about the country’s first case of Zika virus infection months ago. But they didn’t alert the public because they didn’t want “people to start panicking,” one health official said this week.
Three confirmed cases of Zika infections in the western Indian state of Gujarat were reported by the World Health Organization in an online bulletin posted Friday, months after the first patient’s blood sample initially tested positive for the virus.
Government officials knew about India’s first Zika infection in early November when a pregnant woman in the city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, delivered a healthy baby but developed a low-grade fever. Further tests confirmed her diagnosis in January, said J.P. Gupta, health commissioner of Gujarat.
Two more Zika cases from the same city were confirmed by government laboratories by February.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and Zika epidemics were reported in South and Central America last year. Zika is linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, a condition that leaves newborns with abnormally small heads.
For that reason, pregnant women are told to avoid infected areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified more than 70 countries, including many in South Asia, where Zika is still a threat. In the wake of Friday’s news, Britain has advised pregnant women not to travel to…