THE Department of Health (DOH) said warned the public against the ongoing spread of Zika virus in the Americas, saying the threat is real and present.

“We must admit that the threat of Zika virus is there, not only in the Philippines, but in any other country,” said DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy in an interview.

The health official said the threat is even amplified by the existence of the El Niño phenomenon, since there will be more potential mosquito-breeding sites, such as water containers.

He said the present threat does not allow the public to simply disregard Zika virus as a potential health hazard.

“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,” said the official.

Lee Suy said this only means that the public must be pro-active in ensuring that there will be no mosquito-breeding sites.

Zika virus is a disease caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which is the same vector carrying dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Its symptoms include mild fever, skin rash (exanthema), and conjunctivitis, and normally last for two to seven days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to convene on Monday, February 1, its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to discuss the prevalence of Zika virus in the Americas.

“The Committee will meet on Monday, February 1, in Geneva to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” said the WHO in a statement.

Aside from the declaration of a public health emergency, the WHO meeting will also discuss the scaling up and strengthening of surveillance systems in affected countries, address critical gaps in scientific knowledge about the virus, development of vaccines, and improving diagnostic tests. (HDT)