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Union Health Ministry has dispatched a six-member team to monitor the zika virus situation in Kerala, informed Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal on Friday.

"There are some Zika cases which have been reported from Kerala. To monitor the situation and to support the state government, a six-member team comprising public health experts, vector-borne disease experts and clinicians from AIIMS has already been issued instructions to reach there and support the state government in terms of management of Zika there," Agarwal said.

The total tally of zika virus cases in Kerala have gone up to 14 after National Institute of Virology (NIV) confirmed 13 more cases. The first patient of the mosquito-borne virus in the state was a 24-year-old pregnant woman, who was diagnosed on Thursday.

Kerala government informed that of the 19 samples sent to the NIV, 13 samples were found to be positive for zika virus.

The symptoms are similar to dengue and they include fever, rashes and joint pain. Health Minister of the State Veena George said an action plan has been drawn up to control the spread of Zika. Pregnant women should get themselves tested if they have fever, the Minister said at a meeting of the District Medical Officers (DMOs).

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable and can transmit the infection to their newborns which can result in life-altering conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare auto-immune disease.

Zika is mostly spread through the bite of the Aedes mosquito but can also be sexually transmitted, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda's Zika forest in 1947 and has caused several outbreaks across the world in recent decades.

No vaccines or anti-viral drugs are available as prevention or cure.

Symptoms include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis and muscle and joint pain, but fatalities are rare.

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