The Department of Health (DOH) today calls on all pregnant women to be more careful against mosquito bites especially during daytime and it also encourages those with fever, rashes and conjunctivitis to immediately consult doctors to ease apprehensions over catching the Zika virus.
“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,” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin disclosed.
The health chief, however, clarifies the allegations on microcephaly cases in the Philippines.
“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; maternal exposure to heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, alcohol, radiation, and smoking; genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome; and severe malnutrition during fetal life.” Garin stressed.
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), she also said that microcephaly is a neonatal malformation defined as a head size much smaller compared with other babies of the same age and sex. If this combines with poor brain growth, babies with microcephaly can develop developmental disabilities. The severity of microcephaly ranges from mild to severe.
Meanwhile, the DOH through the Epidemiology Bureau (EB) disseminates strengthened guidelines on surveillance of Zika Virus Disease. DOH will now include Zika Virus under Category 1 Classification on the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) system. This means that all suspected cases of Zika virus diseases shall be reported within 24 hours to the Epidemiology Bureau through the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Units (RESU) in the country.
“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.” Garin explained.
DOH included specific definition for a suspected case for Zika virus disease: patients with fever equal to or higher than 38 degrees centigrade for more than two days, conjunctivitis, skin rash, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, body weakness and pain behind the eyes. In addition, patients who experienced above symptoms within two weeks after traveling from countries with confirmed reported cases of Zika virus and patients who have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome are also accounted as a suspected case for Zika virus.
In the wake of the current Zika outbreak in some parts of the world, fetus, newborn or infant with a head circumference less than the WHO standard growth charts or disproportionately small head as compared to the infant’s length are considered a suspected case of Zika virus. However, not all pregnant women afflicted with Zika will give birth to babies with microcephaly. In addition, a fetus, newborn, or infant whose mother had confirmed or presumed infection of Zika virus during pregnancy is included as a suspected case of Zika virus.
All suspected cases will be tested for Zika virus using Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). Currently, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is capable of testing suspected cases of Zika virus through RT PCR. The test is also available in Visayas and Mindanao.
“We continuously remind everyone that cleanliness is still the key against mosquito-borne diseases. The public is reminded to be vigilant and responsible in eliminating mosquito breeding places through the ‘4S campaign’. The 4S means Search & destroy mosquito breeding places, use Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than 2 days, and Say yes to fogging when there is an impending outbreak.” Garin concluded.