India’s approach to disseminating information about the first three cases of the Zika virus was criticised nationally and internationally after the issue came to light in May 2017 through a World Health Organization news release. We analyse the incident from a risk communication perspective. This commentary recaps the events and synthesises key arguments put forth by the news media and public health stakeholders. We use Peter Sandman’s risk = hazard + outrage framework – also adopted by India’s risk communication planners – to analyse India’s risk communication response and contextualise it against the mandate of the National Risk Communication Plan and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. We conclude with recommendations for India’s risk communication policymakers, including the need to develop capacity for risk communication research and scholarship in the country.