THE Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday that the Philippines, particularly Cebu, is still free from Zika virus, which is now a global concern because it is “spreading explosively” in Latin American countries like Colombia.
Speaking during the Kapihan sa PIA (Philippine Information Agency), DOH-Central Visayas medical officer Dr. Eugenia Canal said Zika virus infection is a vector-borne disease caused by a flavivirus. This occurs in tropical countries with a large mosquito population.
Canal said Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. Mosquitoes that spread Zika bite aggressively during the day. This is the same mosquito that transmits Dengue and Chikungunya.
But the virus can also spread through sexual contact.
Also during the Kapihan sa PIA, DOH-Central Visayas Assistant Director Sofia Mancao said that like dengue and flu, Zika is a mild viral infection with common symptoms that include fever, rashes, joint pain, or conjunctivitis.
The other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and vomiting. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for 2-7 days.
“There is no vaccine and no treatment for Zika virus because this is a self-limiting disease. You just drink a lot of water, rest and sleep and you will be healed even though it will take two to seven days,” Mancao said.
But what DOH wants is prevention among pregnant women because the baby may have an unusually small head, called microcephaly, due to incomplete brain development.
“That is the main concern of DOH,” Mancao said.
Mancao said there was a single case of Zika virus in Cebu in 2012 when a 15-year-old boy from another province was spotted by the Bureau of Quarantine when he passed through Mactan Cebu International Airport.
Mancao said that other than that, there was no other Zika virus case.
As announced by DOH Secretary Janet Garin, the DOH will send Zika testing kits to the different health regional offices who will conduct trainings to personnel who will be tasked to do the job, said Mancao.
The testing kits will only be used to persons suspected of having Zika virus.
As this developed, Senator Teofisto Guingona II, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, reminded the public that being vigilant and proactive against mosquitoes are the first and most effective lines of defense against the rapidly spreading Zika virus.
According to Guingona, households and communities will be the ones directly affected should Zika be present in the country, therefore, mobilizing local efforts is vital to combat the virus’s spread.
“The mosquito that carries Zika virus is the same that carries dengue virus, and we have had our share of dengue outbreak but we fought hard. Zika is not as deadly, but we must be as vigilant,” Guingona said.