Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bicol Zika virus-free but health authorities call for renewed fight vs disease-carrying mosquitoes
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 7, (PNA) —- The Bicol region has remained “Zika virus-free” but health authorities in the region are not letting their guard down after suspicions were raised by the Department of Health (DOH) that the virus is endemic in the Philippines.

Dr. Lulu Ramos-Santiago, coordinator of DOH-Bicol’s Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease Unit, has urged the public to conduct massive “search and destroy” activities for potential breeding sites of mosquitoes that could be carriers “not just of the Zika virus but also of dengue and Chikungunia viruses.”

An official press statement from DOH-Bicol showed that as of February 2, a total of 57 Zika virus cases have already been reported across the country.

Santiago said all the regions surrounding Bicol have seen cases of Zika virus diseases.

“But Bicol region has remained Zika-virus free. Maybe because we also have low cases of dengue infections,” she said.

Santiago said the latest cases of Zika virus victims turned out to be among those without a travel history.

“This means that they got the infection from their localities and not from outside the country,” she said.

Santiago said this likely means that Zika virus is endemic in the Philippines like the dengue and chikungunia virus which are carried by their vector aedes aegypti.

She said it must be noted that the carriers of the three types of virus come from the same species of mosquito--the Aedes aegypti.

Santiago said the campaign to combat Ziga virus infection is anchored on DOH’s 4S advocacy: “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 only when there is an impending outbreak.”

The DOH report on the 57 confirmed cases of Zika virus in the country showed seven were Zika-pregnant cases whose ages range from 16 to 32 years old.

“Three came from the National Capital Region and two each from the Calabarzon region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Central Visayas,” said DOH.

One of the cases involved a 16-year-old from Las Piñas who gave birth to a full term baby boy but without microcephaly (tiny head).

Another case involved a 32-year-old from Central Visayas who had spontaneous abortion at nine weeks of pregnancy.

“The rest are being closely monitored,” DOH reported.

Earlier, DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial explained that Zika infection is asymptomatic (without visible symptoms) in 80 percent of the cases and that most of the time “the disease is self-limiting.”

“The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting a week and in most cases they do not require hospitalization,” she said.

Ubial said however that the effect on the results of the pregnancy should not be discounted.

“Zika virus has been linked to congenital CNS malformation like microcephaly,” she said.

Ubial called on pregnant women to avoid mosquito bites especially during day time.

She said insect repellents are safe for regular application but for those with fever, rash and conjunctivitis, there is a need to consult a doctor.

Zika virus is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same kind of mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya viruses.

DOH said there have been reports that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact.

The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever relief medicines, rest and plenty of water intake.

Pregnant women who develop the illness should seek the advice of doctors before taking any medicine. If symptoms persist, patients are advised to consult the nearest health facility.

“Currently, there is no available vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection.”

Ubial reiterated that cleanliness is still the key to prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.

“The public is reminded to be vigilant and cautious in eliminating mosquito breeding places through the ‘4S campaign,’” she added. (PNA) LAP/GVR/SMT/CBD