DOH on heightened alert vs Zika virus

FULLY aware of the dangers the Zika virus brings, the government particularly the Department of Health (DOH) has initiated various initiatives to prevent the disease’s entry in the country even as reports indicated that the virus is already slowly creeping across Southeast Asia.

The DOH has particularly heightened its alert status on the country’s port of entries even as Singaporean authorities have confirmed 41 cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus infection during the last weekend of August.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said no airline passenger from Singapore has tested positive yet of the virus noting that the Philippines is still free from Zika as of press time.

Singapore, despite having the highest health care standards in Southeast Asia, is a densely populated tropical island with frequent rain, thus encouraging mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water that collects in construction areas, open space and homes.

It is also one of Asia’s cleanest cities but has a chronic problem with dengue fever, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Zika Virus Facts

Zika virus is a rare tropical disease that has become epidemic in Latin America and the Carribean.

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening.

This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Sexual transmission and blood transmission of Zika virus is also possible.

People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.

There are no reports yet regarding the availability of specific treatments and vaccines for the virus.

Dangerous

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that infection with the Zika virus in pregnant women is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities in babies.

The CDC said now that the causal relationship has been established, several important questions must still be answered with studies that could take years.

The World Health Organization supports the strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause the birth defect microcephaly in babies, a condition defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

In addition, the agency said it could cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis. Conclusive proof of the damage caused by Zika may take months or years.

Brazil reports the number of confirmed cases of microcephaly at 1,835 as doctors and Brazilian health officials find that some suspected cases of microcephaly are not the disorder. Suspected ones under investigation had declined to 3,257.

Brazil registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus from February until April 2.

Current research in Brazil indicates the greatest microcephaly risk is associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy, but health officials have warned an impact could be seen in later weeks. Recent studies have shown evidence of Zika in amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal brain tissue.

DOH Advice

The DOH has advised pregnant women to consider deferring non-essential travel to Zika-hit countries and reiterated its warning to the public to destroy all breeding places of mosquitoes, which can spread dengue and other tropical diseases.

Health officials have worked to raise public awareness about ways to prevent infections, including using insect repellents and wearing protective clothing.

They also advised the public that if there are suspected cases of Zika it should be reported to the DOH immediately within 24 hours. (With reports from DOH, WHO, Indian Express / Opinyon, Addie Pobre, Kenneth Valladolid)

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Thursday, 05 December 2019
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