What Should You Do if You Suspect a Zika Infection
The Philippines first case was a 15-year-old boy in Cebu in 2012. This year, five cases were already reported: one woman from Iloilo City and four foreign nationals who tested positive for the Zika virus after traveling to PH.
After Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia confirmed the presence of the Zika virus in their respective countries, the Philippines recently reported its sixth confirmed Zika case, a 45-year-old married woman from Iloilo who has no travel history to any country where Zika is active.
According to a report on Inquirer.net, she first complained of skin rashes and joint paints on August 21. She was confined in a local hospital but discharged the following day. Her urine and blood samples both tested positive for the Zika virus. "She tested positive for both specimens. Currently, she is at home recovering from her very mild illness," Department of Health (DOH) secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said in a statement.
"It is highly likely that the transmission is local, but we should also consider other means of transmission at this time," Dr. Eric Tayag, spokesperson for the DOH, added. DOH has sent a team to Iloilo City to check the area and test others who have symptoms of the Zika virus. However, DOH undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, stressed, "The Zika cases in the country are sporadic. They are not considered outbreak."
The World Health Organization has the country included under Category 2 for Zika infections, which means there are reported cases in the country, but has no recorded local transmissions. Ubial said the DOH is on heightened alert, but he also emphasized that there is no cause for alarm. "The key to Zika prevention is heightened vigilance and stronger community efforts of every household," Ubial added and asked for everyone's cooperation.
Here are what you can do if you suspect a Zika infection:
1. Know the symptoms of the Zika virus. Be informed. The symptoms of the Zika virus are very similar to the symptoms of dengue fever and chikungunya. These are mild fever, skin rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (sore eyes), fatigue, and headache. Onset of the symptoms is generally two to seven days after getting bitten by a mosquito. However, not all patients infected with Zika--only one in four people, in fact--will develop symptoms.
2. If you have been bitten by the disease-carrying mosquito and have any of the symptoms, consult a physician to treat the symptoms and monitor your condition. Don’t self-medicate. Going to a hospital or a health clinic will not only help prevent further complications, but also help the DOH monitor the presence of Zika in the country. Health officials will collect urine and blood samples for confirmation. Zika testing kits analyzes the patient's blood and takes a few hours to a day to confirm the presence of Zika in a patient.
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Zika is generally a mild illness and treatment consists of giving medication to alleviate the symptoms, having enough rest and sleep, and taking plenty of fluids. It is not contagious, but it can be passed on during sex. So it's extremely crucial for pregnant women to be tested immediately as their babies could be at risk for developing microcephaly, a serious neurological birth defect.
3. If you're a returning traveler from Zika endemic countries, fill out the health declaration checklists completely and truthfully, and cooperate with the Bureau of Quarantine. The BOQ continues to screen all travelers for fever or temperatures above 37.5-degree Celsius. Suspected Zika patients will be taken to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City only for further tests, diagnosis, and monitoring and not necessarily for isolation. Filipinos who develop fever after travel from Zika-endemic countries are advised to call (+632) 711.1001 or (+632) 711.1002 or call state operators via the national hotline 8888.
4. For patients who had recovered from the symptoms, practice safe sex--use a condom--for six months. The Zika virus, apart from being spread via the same type of mosquitoes that carries dengue, can also be sexually transmitted. According to GMANetwork.com, Ubial said that six months is the length of the time the virus could stay in a person's blood and bodily fluids after infection. For patients who did not have fever or any other symptom of the Zika virus, the DOH still recommends them to practice safe sex for up to eight weeks.
Prevention is still everyone's first priority. The Philippine Red Cross posted an infographic on its Facebook to help citizens be informed about the Zika virus and what each and everyone can do to prevent its spread. Clean and remove possible breeding grounds of mosquitoes at home and in your community. Keep your family safe by staying away from mosquito-infested areas, using mosquito repellant lotions and sprays, and wearing protective covering such as long-sleeved tops and long pants.
The DOH had also issued travel warnings for pregnant women and women of childbearing age not to go to countries where the Zika virus is currently spreading, such as Singapore where Zika confirmed cases had risen to more than 200, and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Let's all do our part in making sure the country remains Zika-free.