AN American woman who stayed in the Philippines for a month tested positive for Zika upon her return to the United States, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Sunday.
Health Secretary Janette Garin said the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention reported that the woman, who was in the country in January, is not pregnant.
“Currently, we are coordinating with the US-CDC for the profile of the patient, including information on places she visited in the Philippines. We were informed that shortly after returning home to the US, an evidence of Zika virus infection was detected [in]the patient,” Garin added.
The Health official, however, gave assurances that there is yet no outbreak of the disease in the Philippines.
Garin said the DOH, along with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, is capable of testing suspected cases of Zika virus.
There are six testing centers nationwide and the country has 2,000 testing kits available.
“We can test it and [we know]how to control [the virus]. All patients suspected of the Zika virus will be isolated so that they will not be bitten by mosquitoes and infect others,” Garin told reporters.
She said the public has no reason to panic because only one case of Zika has been reported.
“There is no outbreak of Zika virus in the Philippines, there is no cause to panic. Nananawagan din po kami sa lahat na huwag palakihin ang issue. Ang kailangan natin gawin sa mga buntis at nagpaplanong magbuntis ay [We are appealing to everyone to not blow the issue out of proportion. Pregnant women or those planning to conceive should] exert maximum effort to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” Garin added.
The only previous known case of Zika in the country was that of a 15-year-old boy infected in 2012. He recovered after three weeks.
The mosquito-borne disease is usually not life-threatening but has been linked to a rise in birth defects in other countries, where hundreds of babies had been born with unusually small heads in recent years.
Colombia also on Sunday reported more than 47,700 cases of Zika, including thousands of pregnant women infected with the mosquito-borne virus.
A total of 8,890 pregnant women have come down with the disease, which has been tentatively linked to a serious birth defect known as microcephaly affecting babies born to women who became infected while pregnant.
Of the 47,771 cases now reported, 5,065 were registered in the last week alone. Among those, 1,237 cases were pregnant women.
Laos is the latest country to report a local transmission of Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization, as fears mount over the mosquito-borne illness that has been linked to birth defects.
Asia has seen only a sprinkling of cases of the virus, but a surge in Latin America this year has pushed the UN health agency to declare Zika a global health emergency.
Laos also reported local transmissions of the virus on Saturday.
Thailand reported one case last month of a 22-year-old who contracted the illness domestically but has since recovered.
Scientists on Friday said they had found the first evidence of a biological link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a severe deformation of the brain among newborns.
Laboratory tests found that the virus targeted key cells involved in brain development and then destroyed or disabled them, they added.
The findings are the first concrete evidence of a link between the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly, which until now had been circumstantial, said Guo-li Ming, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering, and a co-leader of the research.