Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The Zika sickness

Sarah Nengasca - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The recent news about strikes of the Zika Virus in Brazil is causing alarm among the nations of the world, including Filipinos. The Department of Health, though, assures that there is yet no imminent threat of the virus in the country. Just the same, it cautions people to be watchful and careful.

The Zika virus or ZIKV is transmitted by mosquitoes. For decades, the incidence of mosquito-related outbreaks has grown significantly around the world. In the Philippines alone, mosquitoes have historically established their role in charting the country's mortality rate  by causing millions of deaths mostly via malaria, dengue and yellow fever, the last two being among the mosquito-borne diseases that are closely related to ZIKV.

Reports say that ZIKV infection has rapidly spread to over 20 countries and territories in the Latin Americas in a short span of time. It has a high potential for ongoing geographic expansion into other countries, particularly the United States, where Aedes Egypti mosquitoes, the main factor in Zika transmission, reportedly abound.

ZIKV is linked to a type of birth defect called "microcephaly," a neurological condition in which infants are born with small skulls and incomplete brain development. But the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says that evidence on mother-to-child transmission of ZIKV during pregnancy or childbirth has still to be generated.

According to PAHO, the most common symptoms of ZIKV include low fever, headache, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). But what's worse is that most people affected with ZIKV exhibit no symptoms at the onset thus allowing the virus to spread widely before it is noticed and can be acted upon.

While reports trace the recent ZIKV outbreak to the first case of confirmed Zika infection in Brazil in May last year, a study funded by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center - Global Emerging Infections Surveillance has found that the first human infection with ZIKV was reported in Nigeria in 1954 which caused only sporadic infections. But a large outbreak occurred in Micronesia in 2007. Since then, laboratory-confirmed ZIKV cases have been reported to spread across French Polynesia in 2013 and the rest of South Pacific.

The study says: "ZIKV infections have also been reported in travelers to areas in the South Pacific with known ZIKV transmission and to areas such as Thailand and Indonesia, where no recent endemic cases have been [cited]. However, a case of endemic ZIKV infection has been reported in a child in Cambodia, and serologic evidence of ZIKV infection has been reported in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines."

The study, entitled "Zika Virus Infection, Philippines, 2012," revealed further that in May 2012, a ZIKV RNA was detected on the serum sample of a 15-year-old boy in Cebu City. In the beginning, the boy was observed to suffer from fever, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, myalgias, stomach pain, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting - but no rash. He was tested for dengue and chikungunya viruses but was found to be negative. The boy, however, recovered fully after the three-week study follow-up visit.

It was deduced that since the "symptoms of the disease were similar to those for other known endemic arboviruses, it is also possible that the strain was introduced into the Philippines even before 2012 but has remained undetected." However, the physician-researchers cautioned that the ZIKV infection detected in the study could just be an isolated case as "the virus was confirmed in only 1/270 episodes of acute febrile illness."

Zika does not spread from person to person, but a mosquito carrying the virus could hitch a free ride on the plane and end up in any country. However, the World Health Organization has not yet issued any travel advisories but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on whose website the above-cited study was posted, has issued a travel alert warning pregnant women to avoid travelling to areas where ZIKV is spreading.

As of this writing, no medical development like vaccines, or a novel pest control has been formulated. This leaves the public to depend only on the government's public health advisories and the public's own concern for sanitation. It helps a lot to continue the drive to clean the surroundings and get rid of possible mosquito breeding sites. (FREEMAN)

(References: www.usatoday.com, http//edition.cnn.com, www.cdc.gov)













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