DOH on Zika alert

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) is on alert regarding flights from Singapore where local transmission of 41 confirmed cases of Zika virus have been confirmed by authorities over the weekend.

In a text message, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial explained that the DOH’s policy is to test only “symptomatic travelers from endemic countries.”

“So now, Singapore flights will be among those to be closely monitored for Zika symptomatics,” she said.

Zika is caused by the bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Symptoms include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, malaise or headache, muscle and joint pain, which could last for two to seven days.

The disease is also being linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly, a condition of abnormal smallness of the head among babies of infected mothers.

Surveillance and quarantine checks at Philippine airport and seaports continue to prevent the entry of Zika virus and other infectious diseases, which travelers may bring into the country.

Ubial said those who are manifesting symptoms like fever, cough, colds and had history of travel to Zika-affected countries are being tested. “The symptomatics are sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for isolation and testing.”

The non-symptomatics are not subjected to isolation, but they are advised by the DOH to contact the agency if symptoms appear in two weeks’ time.

Ubial gave assurance that the Philippines is still free from the Zika virus.

However, Singapore had confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus, primarily among foreign construction workers. A 47-year-old Malaysian woman was the first case of local transmission.

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