AN OFFICIAL of the Department of Health (DOH) 7 urged the public last Tuesday to be extra vigilant against the Zika virus, saying it could spread locally.
The DOH 7 advisory came after the recent confirmation of a Zika case in Iloilo City.
Dr. Van Phillip Baton, DOH 7 Zika Virus coordinator, told reporters that even though Zika is not fatal unlike dengue fever, it is sexually transmitted and could have significant effects on the nervous system, especially on infants born from infected mothers.
During a weekly press forum organized by the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO) 7 yesterday, Baton said six people, including four foreigners who visited the country, have tested positive of the Zika virus.
In Cebu, only one confirmed case, a 12-year-old boy, was reported, but it was in 2012. Since then, no confirmed cases have been identified in Cebu.
But Baton said that with the discovery of the Zika case in Iloilo this week, the probability that the virus could be transmitted through dengue mosquitoes that have bred in the country is likely.
First observed in Latin America, the Zika virus is carried by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which also carries the dengue virus, chikungunya and yellow fever.
Baton said that while Zika and dengue have almost similar symptoms, the only difference between them is its effect on the body.
He said a patient with Zika virus will not die from the virus, but can be spread through sexual contact.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found links between Zika and the increasing number of infants with congenital microcephaly.
It has no known cure and is often managed by treating the symptoms, Baton said.
Symptoms of Zika include mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache.
But Baton assured that anyone infected with Zika will not have it forever.
Baton said that in the case of men, the virus would stay in the sperm for six to eight weeks before it leaves the system.
It is the same with women, except in the case of expectant mothers, he said.
Considering that dengue and Zika have the same carrier, Baton urged communities to practice prevention, such as the 4S plan (search and destroy, self protection, seek medical attention and say no to indiscriminate fogging).
“We are fortunate that we have existing dengue programs that specifically focus on eliminating the vector of transmission,” Baton said.
He also urged those with symptoms of the virus to immediately seek medical help and have themselves tested.
The Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center is the only hospital in Cebu that conducts testing on Zika.