Report suspected Zika virus cases within 24 hours

zika virus
CLEANLINESS. The DOH advises communities to keep their environment clean to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.
The DOH places the Zika virus under the ‘Category 1 classification’ on the Philippine integrated disease surveillance and response system

MANILA, Philippines (Mar. 14, 2016) — All suspected cases for Zika virus diseases should be reported within 24 hours to the Department of Health (DOH), as the agency placed the disease under the “Category 1 classification” on the Philippine integrated disease surveillance and response system.

Suspected cases are to be reported to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau through its regional epidemiology surveillance units nationwide, Health Secretary Janette Garin announced in a press conference on Monday, March 14.

Zika is now in the same Category 1 DOH monitoring level as MERS, the ebola virus, and the H1N1 flu virus.

“We want to emphasize that this procedure is not new in DOH,” the health chief clarified.

“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,” Garin added.

Garin also warned against panic born from misinformation, “When panic strikes communities, more complications arise.”

Doctors are the only ones who could assess whether one is a suspected case for the Zika virus or not. If there is a suspected case, the doctor sends the patient’s information to the nearest appropriate laboratory or directly to the DOH.

All suspected cases are tested for the Zika virus using Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction, which is being used the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila. Tests are also available in Visayas and Mindanao.

Zika infection is asymptomatic – or does not show symptoms – in 80% of cases. Hence, pregnant women should be extra wary of mosquito bites, Garin stressed.

“Almost always the symptoms will be mild,” she added.

As of March, the DOH has tested 827 suspected cases nationwide including non-pregnant women. All results turned out negative.

The DOH currently has 5,000 testing kits available, with results available within 24 to 48 hours.

Suspected cases

Suspected cases for the Zika virus experience fever equal to or higher than 38ºC for more than two days; conjunctivitis; skin rashes; and any of the following that cannot be explained by other medical conditions:

  • Headache
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Malaise
  • Joint pain
  • Retro orbital pain

Those who experience symptoms two weeks after travelling to an area with reported Zika cases should also consult doctors.

Countries with travel health notices in relation to Zika include: Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Dominican Republic, Guadaloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, US Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatamela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, American Samoa, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Cape Verde, and Mexico.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advises pregnant women to avoid traveling to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Patients with a history of Guillan-Barre syndrome are likewise accounted as a suspected case for Zika virus. Infants whose mother had confirmed or presumed Zika infection during pregnancy are also suspected cases.

Meanwhile, mothers whose infants have a disproportionately small head compared to their body length should also see a doctor.

Microcephaly is a neonatal malformation which makes a baby’s head smaller than normal. It could also lead to developmental disabilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Let it be clear that Zika virus is not the only cause of microcephaly,” Garin said. Other potential causes of this condition include the following:

  • Infections in the womb like toxoplasmosis which is caused by parasites in undercooked meat
  • Rubella, cytomegalovirus
  • Herpes, syphilis, HIV
  • Maternal exposure to heavy metals like arsenic and mercury
  • Maternal exposure to alcohol, radiation, smoking
  • Genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome
  • Severe malnutrition during fetal life

The DOH, however, stressed that not all pregnant women afflicted with Zika would give birth to babies with microcephaly.

Cleanliness, communities

“Cleanliness is still the key to mosquito-borne diseases,” Garin reminded the public. “It’s the answer to good health.”

The DOH said that communities play a “critical role” in keeping their environment clean, hence protecting their families not only from the Zika virus but many other diseases.

As summer is approaching, the DOH warns households that mosquitoes could thrive in unsanitary environments, including piles of stock water.

The DOH encourages communities to eliminate mosquito breeding places through its “4S” campaign:

  • Search and destroy mosquito breeding places
  • Self-protection measures
  • Seek early consultation
  • Say yes to fogging when there is an impending outbreak

Alongside WHO’s global efforts, the DOH also has its own national action plan “to contain and prevent the transmission of Zika virus and other possible mosquito diseases.”

The DOH focuses on 4 strategies:

  • Disease surveillance and clinical management
  • Vector control: Increase efforts to control spread of Aedes and other mosquitoes with disease potential
  • Management of potential impacts on women
  • Health promotion among communities

As of present, there are no prophylaxis, treatment, or vaccine to protect against the Zika virus, according to the DOH.

Priority areas are those with high incidence of dengue cases, such as Cavite, the National Capital Region, cities with urban population, Davao region, and Central Visayas.

The places visited by the US resident who tested positive for Zika are also being monitored.

DOH action, however, covers all regions nationwide.

On Wednesday, March 16, the DOH will start its Zika orientation and planning among its regional directors. From then on, the DOH will work with the media and other stakeholders to raise more public awareness.

  by Frizie Rodriguez |