Friday, March 11, 2016

DOH warns Bicolanos anew vs Zika virus
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, March 10 (PNA) -– The regional health office here has re-echoed in Bicol the national warning recently issued by the Department of Health (DOH) against the spread of Zika virus.

“There is a need for vigilance among Bicolanos in initiating measures to eliminate the virus’ vector—Aedes mosquitoes—and complete awareness of precautionary means to avoid being afflicted by the viral disease,” DOH assistant regional director Napoleon Arevalo on Thursday said.

In a national advisory issued over the week, Health Secretary Janette Garin enjoined Filipinos to actively participate in measures to eliminate carrier-mosquitoes and their breeding places to prevent the spread among communities and possible Zika virus infection of individuals.

The advisory, according to Arevalo, was in reiteration of the previous warnings issued following a report from US-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) that an adult female American resident was confirmed positive to Zika virus after her four-week travel in the Philippines last January.

The report said the female American traveler developed an illness with symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain during her last week of stay in the Philippines before returning to the US.

“Currently, we are coordinating with US-CDC for the profile of the patient, including information on places she visited in the Philippines. We were informed that shortly after returning home to the US, an evidence of Zika virus infection was detected from the patient,” Garin said in the latest advisory.

Arevalo said the viral disease, caused by Zika virus, is characterized by fever, rash, and conjunctivitis while other symptoms are muscle pain, headache and vomiting.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for two to seven days and although most individuals infected are asymptomatic or do not manifest any symptoms, they still have the capability of transmitting the infection, he said.

The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest, and plenty of water intake, but should these persist, patients are advised to consult the nearest health facility.

The DOH stressed that the infection is asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases and most of the time, the disease is self-limiting.

However, the effect on the result of pregnancy should not be discounted as Zika virus has been linked to congenital central nervous system malformation like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, the health agency said, as it calls on pregnant women to avoid mosquito bites, especially during day time.

Currently, there is no available vaccine to prevent Zika infection, Arevalo reminds Bicolanos as, he said, the virus is usually transmitted through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

There have also been reports that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 55 countries and territories that have reported local Zika transmission from January 2007 to last March 3.

Local Zika virus transmission has also been detected in neighboring countries such as American Samoa, Cambodia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Maldives and Thailand.

Most Zika cases are from other regions, specifically Latin America.

Arevalo said DOH regional offices across the country have been tasked in carrying out the precautionary measures stated in the advisory by way of leading activities geared toward the elimination of the carrier mosquitoes in every community and informing residents on what are to be done in case of infection.

As an initial move, he said, the DOH-Bicol reiterates that cleanliness is still the key against mosquito-borne diseases and Bicolanos should step up strategies with the “4S campaign”, that is, Search and destroy mosquito breeding places; use Self-protection measures; Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than two days; and Say "yes" to fogging when there is an impending outbreak.

In the same advisory, Garin said that in the Philippines, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is capable of testing suspected cases of Zika virus through Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction.

The female American traveler was the first reported Zika case in the Philippines since the disease’s recent outbreak, which initially started in April last year in Brazil.

It has yet to be a year since the outbreak began but already, the mosquito-borne disease has been declared as a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO.

The only other known Zika case in the Philippines was reported in May 2012 in a 15-year-old boy from Cebu City who, during an acute-illness investigation, showed symptoms that included headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, myalgias, stomach pain, anorexia, nausea and vomiting, but no rash.

The boy, who had no recent travel history and no other members of his household felt the same symptoms, did not seek medical care or require hospitalization and his only treatment before a three-week full recovery was acetaminophen, earlier reports said.

The reports also said that an acute-phase blood sample, collected from the boy two days after the symptom onset, was negative for dengue and chikungunya viruses by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD