DOH warns public: Be vigilant vs Zika

Grace Melanie L. Lacamiento (The Freeman) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Although Cebu remains free of Zika virus, health authorities warn the public to remain vigilant from being infected.

Dr. Sophia Mancao, acting assistant director of Department of Health-7, said there has been no case of Zika viral infection reported in Cebu and in the Philippines.

“There’s nothing to be alarmed. We are still Zika-free,” she said.

 Mancao said Zika virus is not as fatal as dengue, adding that it is a mild viral infection and self-limiting disease that one can still recover without medication.

 “Dili ni makapatay,” she said.

Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti – the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya – that are most aggressive during daytime and usually present in tropical countries with large mosquito population.

The World Health Organization declared Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern” last Monday with the alarming upsurge of Zika cases mostly in Latin America.

However, Mancao said pregnant women have to be more careful from mosquito bites since they are more vulnerable to get infected with the Zika virus that might cause side effects to their babies.

The baby inside the womb of a Zika-infected mother may be born with abnormally small heads due to incomplete brain development called microcephaly.

Meanwhile, Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal of DOH 7 also said studies are conducted to prove if Zika virus may be sexually transmitted.

While it manifests as an ordinary flu, Mancao said it is best to be aware of the signs and symptoms that lasts for two to seven days.

The common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and vomiting.

People sick with Zika virus are also advised to get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines such as paracetamol but not aspirin.

Mancao said it is better to seek immediate medical consultation so as to determine if the infected person suffers from dengue or Zika virus since both are alike especially in their symptoms.

Mancao reminded the public to undertake preventive measures such as wearing of long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using insect repellants, keeping the surroundings clean and avoiding stagnant waters to eliminate possible breeding sites of mosquitoes.

Mancao also confirmed that Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center is one of the six hospitals in the country that are designated as testing faci-lities for Zika virus.

Other hospitals include Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), Baguio General Hospital in Baguio City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao, Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

The health department currently has 1,000 available testing kits for Zika virus. Another set of 1,000 kits will arrive in the next two weeks, as earlier announced by Health Secretary Janette Garin.

Mancao also said they have intensified monitoring at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in coordination with the Bureau of Quarantine to track visitors with travel history in Latin America.

Bureau of Quarantine-7 Chief Terence Anthony Bermejo said they are spraying international aircrafts to prevent the entry of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus.

Bermejo also confirmed there has been no Zika case reported in Cebu’s international airport, adding there are no direct flights to Cebu from South America.

In 2012, a 15-year-old boy in Cebu was reported to have been positive for Zika virus. Mancao said the patient has already fully recovered years ago.  —  (FREEMAN)

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