WHO calls emergency meeting on Zika virus
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) is convening a meeting today to discuss the possibility of declaring a public health emergency due to the spread of the Zika virus.

Health Secretary Janette Garin reported that WHO has called for an emergency meeting as the virus spreads to more countries.

“We will know the global classification of Zika virus after the meeting,” Garin said.

Garin gave assurance the Department of Health (DOH) will exert all efforts to prevent the possible spread of Zika in the country.

“What is important now is to be aggressive in cleaning our surroundings and work double time to lessen the population of day-biting mosquitoes,” she said.

In a statement, WHO announced the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will meet in Geneva to ascertain whether the Zika outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”

WHO said scaling up and strengthening of surveillance systems in affected countries, addressing critical gaps in scientific knowledge about the virus, development of vaccines, and improving diagnostic tests would also be discussed during the meeting.

The WHO earlier warned Zika virus may be “spreading explosively” in the American region.

Zika virus is a disease caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same vector carrying dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Symptoms of those afflicted with Zika virus include mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis, which normally last for two to seven days.

DOH spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said the Philippines should not be complacent and take action even if the country has not recorded a case of the illness.

“There is no room for us to be complacent about this. We do not want to be complacent with this because it is something that we need to address,” Lee Suy said.

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

No current Zika cases have been reported in the country but in 2012, a 15-year-old boy was reportedly infected in Cebu City and recovered fully, according to Lee Suy.

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

“We’ve repeatedly urged people not to be hard-headed and keep their surroundings clean and mosquito-free. Again, let’s not spring into action only when an infection’s already here,” Lee Suy said.

Airlines will also accept cancelation of flights to all pregnant passengers bound for countries that are affected by Zika virus.

President Aquino called on the government to ensure the safety of the public amid concerns over the Zika virus that infected many people in other countries, particularly in Brazil and some parts of South America.

Some international airlines have started cleaning up and spraying their aircraft with disinfectants as part of the measures against the spread of the virus.

Health authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport assured the public that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus would not last during the 14 to 20 hours in the air, including connecting flights to Manila.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is not imposing a deployment ban yet because of the Zika virus outbreak in other countries. – With Rudy Santos

ACIRC CEBU CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT GARIN HEALTH HEALTH SECRETARY JANETTE GARIN INTERNATIONAL HEALTH REGULATIONS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE LEE SUY VIRUS ZIKA
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