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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Editorial: Containing spread of Zika virus

THE Zika virus, which is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is a recent addition to illnesses whose spread has worried health authorities worldwide. So it’s not surprising that the report that a woman in Cebu is among the six persons newly infected with the Zika virus in the country should catch the attention of local government officials. But like most new illnesses, Zika virus infection needs to be understood fully first before we become alarmists.

The image formed in reports about Zika has been that of infected pregnant women giving birth to children with microcephaly--babies with deformed or small head. This, and not the fever that the virus brings and which is not as deadly as dengue fever, is what alarmed people, including world class athletes who skipped the recent Olympics in Rio in Brazil, which is known to have a number of Zika cases, for fear of being infected.

But health authorities are still deepening their knowledge of the virus and how it is being spread. Or at least that was what Gundo Weiler, the representative to the Philippines of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted following the report on the six new Zika infections.

“We are working closely with the Department of Health on this. The National Zika action plan that has been already devised in the beginning of the year and that has already been updated based on the better understanding of the epidemic of Zika here in the Philippines and also globally,” he said.

Thus, as the Cebu Provincial Government and the Department of Health (DOH) 7 respond to the report and find ways to ensure that the spread of the Zika virus would be contained at the local level, they should not forget to enlighten Cebuanos about the virus through an aggressive information drive.

What DOH 7 chief Jaime Bernadas told reporters--that “there is no such thing as a severe form of Zika” and that the number of unborn child acquiring the virus are less than 10 percent, etc.--should be relayed up to the barangay and village level so that undue alarm won’t be spread about the illness even as efforts to contain the virus's spread is intensified.

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