HIGHLIGHT: Health Secretary Janette Garin assures the public that no single case of microcephaly has been particularly traced to zika infection.
MANILA, Philippines – Following reports that an American woman tested positive with Zika infection after staying for a month in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) announced in a press briefing that all suspected cases of the virus must now be reported .
The announcement came after Zika virus was placed under Category 1 Classification of the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance system. The infectious disease will be monitored like other highly communicable diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, Influenza A or H1N1, and Ebola virus
Through the department’s Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit across country, all suspected cases will immediately be tested for Zika virus at the Research Institue for Tropical Medicine using Real-Time Polymerase Chain reaction.
“We want to emphasize that this procedure is not new in DOH. These surveillance guidelines already exist and are continuously implemented in other infectious diseases. What we want to establish is a uniform case definition of Zika suspected cases, and guidelines to improve the monitoring of Zika infections and its possible complications,” said Health Secretary Janette Garin.
A suspected case of Zika infection is defined by DOH as those patients having fever equal or higher than 38 degrees centigrade for more than two days, skin rash, and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye).
Other symptoms are unexplained headache, muscle and joint pain, and pain behind the eyes. The travel history is aptly considered if these symptoms arise within a fortnight from travelling to countries with confirmed Zika virus cases, as well as patients who have a history of severe neurological disorder Guillian-Barré syndrome.
Zika and Pregnant Women
While Department Head Garin says there is no cause for panic amid the firmer monitoring, pregnant women are advised to be watchful as the mosquito-borne disease has serious effects on newborn babies.
“Pregnant women should be wary about mosquito bites because although the Zika infection is asymptomatic in 80% of cases and most of the time self-limiting, the effect on the result of pregnancy should not be discounted as the virus has been linked to congenital central nervous system malformation like microcephaly,” Garin said in the briefing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines microcephaly as a malformation wherein the head size of a newborn is much smaller compared to babies of the same age and sex.
Garin, however, assures the public that no single case of microcephaly has been particularly traced to zika infection.
“Let it be clear that Zika virus is not the only cause of microcephaly. There are many potential causes of microcephaly, but often the cause remains unknown. The most common causes include, infections in the womb, toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat, rubella, herpes, syphilis, cytomegalovirus and HIV,” she said.
She also cited a couple of other causes including ill exposures of pregnant women to heavy metals, smoking, and genetic abnormalities.
While the health department awaits further details for further evaluation on possible local transmissions here in the country after the American woman tested positive, the public is advised to do their part in observing cleanliness to avoid breeding of infected Aedes mosquito species.
The 4S method, which stands for Search and destroy, Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation, and Say yes to fogging in an impending outbreak, is DOH’s long-standing campaign against mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue. It likewise applies in the fight against Zika virus infection. –Kami.com.ph
Photo by CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith accessed from Wikimedia Commons