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DOH cautions against travel to 5 Asian countries amid Zika

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by September 2, 2016 General

MANILA – Health officials have urged Filipinos to reconsider travel to Zika-affected countries in Asia, following an initial outbreak of the virus in Singapore. 

Authorities have asked travelers to take precautions against mosquitoes and to notify the Department of Health (DOH) if they develop fever soon after traveling to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Bureau of Quarantine, Deputy Director Dr. Ferchito Avelino said officials are strictly monitoring travelers arriving from the five countries. 

“Ginagawa namin ang lahat ng paraan para bantayan lahat ng ports of entry…pinapatupad natin ang mas maigting na pag-screen ng arriving passengers, especially sa five countries na ito [We are doing our best to monitor all ports of entry. We are also beefing up the screening process, especially those coming from five affected countries],” Avelino said.

The DOH added that they are also looking at other Zika-affected countries in South America and Africa.

Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial also called on Filipinos to cooperate in filling out the health declaration checklist distributed at the airport, and to also intensify efforts to rid their communities of mosquito breeding places.

No new Zika case has been reported in the Philippines, and no reports have so far come in from Philippine embassies abroad regarding Filipinos infected with Zika.

“The five cases reported before, nakuha nila ang virus sa ibang bansa at nagpunta sila sa Pilipinas. Ang pwede nating masabi ay wala tayong local transmission. Walang umiikot na Zika virus dito [We can say there is no local transmission, there is n Zika virus in the Philippines],” said Ubial. 

Ubial said the government also tested 86 travelers with fever and all tested negative for Zika. DOH said it procured additional kits to deal with the Zika scare. 

MILD, BUT CAN AFFECT BABIES IN WOMB

While the Zika virus is mild and non-fatal to the general population, it can pose a danger to babies in the womb, warned Ubial. 

The virus has been linked to the development of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, among other neurological abnormalities, as well as possible death of a fetus.

The virus can spread through mosquito bites or sexual contact. Thus, people who have exhibited symptoms of infection by the Zika virus should use condoms in intercourse, or abstain from sexual relations entirely for up to six months to prevent transferring the virus to their partner.

Avelino said couples should avoid pregnancy while in countries with reported Zika cases to prevent any chances of the fetus being affected by the virus.

The virus can also be transmitted through blood transmission.

Preventing the local mosquito population from growing, Ubial said, will not only help prevent the spread of the Zika virus, but can also reduce cases of dengue and chikungunya in the Philippines.

“Be a good citizen and avoid bites and spreading Zika, and also protect your family from mosquito bites,” she said.

“We are calling on everyone to watch out for fever among family members coming from Zika endemic countries and call our hotline should they develop fever within seven days.”

For concerns, the public can call the DOH through hotline numbers (02) 711-1001 to 02, or via citizen’s concern hotline number 8888.

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