HEALTH, airport and quarantine authorities urged travellers and pregnant women to take extra precaution to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, as they stepped up efforts to block the mosquito-borne disease that has reached Singapore and Malaysia.
The Department of Health (DOH) assured the public on Friday there had been no new local transmission of the Zika virus in the country.
In a news conference, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said her department and the Bureau of Quarantine would continuously monitor passengers arriving from overseas.
Part of the anti-Zika initiatives is testing among patients displaying Zika symptoms, but there will be no random tests yet, she said.
Using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, the DOH has not yet detected local transmission, Ubial told reporters.
Under the PCR test, blood samples are tested among patients displaying symptoms that are flu-like—fever of 38 degrees and up, muscle or joint pains, vomiting, eye redness and skin rashes.
At least five Zika cases have been documented in the country before, but the transmission happened outside the country, Ubial said.
Among the five cases, one was a Filipino (in Cebu in 2012) while the rest, or four cases, involved foreign nation als, and were documented early this year.
All were cleared in confirmatory tests done after their conditions or symptoms were managed by the DOH referral hospital, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
Airport authorities on Friday doubled their alert status to ward off the possible entry of the Zika virus, said Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal.
The MIAA is coordinating with the DOH, which gave a directive to intensify monitoring of arriving travellers, he said.
At the DOH news conference, quarantine director Ferchito Avelino said arriving passengers were being required to fill up a yellow form or health declaration checklist honestly.
Thermal scanners have been installed at the airport to detect the temperature of arriving travellers as part of strict monitoring, he said.
Travellers were also advised to immediately seek any DOH referral hospital in case symptoms appear, or contact the DOH hotline 711-1001 and 711-1002. The hotline 8888 can also be used to report to the DOH any suspicious case.
The DOH reiterated that Zika virus infection was actually mild compared with dengue. The incubation period is seven to 14 days or up to two weeks.
“The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting two to seven days. Not everyone who gets infected present with symptoms that is why it is important to avoid mosquito bites. Hence, it is very important to clean the surroundings in order to prevent the multiplication of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that serve as vector of the said virus,” Ubial explained.
Ubial reiterated the risk of birth defects on babies, including microcephaly.
Returning travellers from countries hit by Zika are advised to practice “safe sex” for two to six months if they suspect they were exposed to it, Avelino said.