PH braces for Zika virus

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As the fearsome Zika virus continues to spread worldwide, the Philippines has joined other countries in the mad scramble to protect their citizens from the disease that, like dengue, is transmitted by mosquitoes.

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Malacañang on Saturday gave assurances that measures are being laid down by the Department of Health (DOH) against the disease that causes microcephaly in unborn babies.

In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd said the Health department “is already relatively prepared for the virus” should it find its way to the country.

“The DOH has been instructed by the President to [study]this matter and to [ensure]public safety as much as possible,” Quezon said.

He also allayed public fear over the disease, saying that the virus is not easily transmittable.

“Sa aking kaalaman at sa pagkakaintindi ko sa mga briefer at sa mga impormasyon tungkol sa virus na ito, (From what I have learned from briefers and information about this virus) it is not that easily transmittable,” Quezon said.

“Pangalawa, ang sa aking pagkakaintindi ng mga advisories ng DOH, ang mga precautions dito ay (Second, my understanding of the advisories of the DOH is that the precautions are) similar against dengue. In other words, ang [pagtuunan]natin dito‘yung mosquito na nagdadala ng virus na ito (we will focus on mosquitoes that spreadthe virus),” he added.

Lyndon Lee Suy, spokesman of the DOH, said the Philippines remains free of the Zika virus.

Although a case was documented in Cebu City in 2012, no other Zika case has since been reported, he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and the region may see up to four million cases of the disease strongly suspected of causing birth defects.

On Friday (Saturday in Manila) Brazil and the United States agreed to launch a high-level bilateral group to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus. President Dilma Rousseff and her US counterpart Barack Obama discussed their “shared concerns” about the virus’ progress, the White House said.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus.”

It said the pair also “agreed to continue to prioritize building national, regional and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly.

“There is no vaccine to fight the virus and researchers are still scrambling to understand the basics of the disease, including how to prevent, treat and diagnose the emerging mosquito-borne threat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will on Monday convene its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to determine whether the outbreak already constitutes the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same vector carrying dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

With AFP and PNA

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