Keep Zika at bay

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

The Zika virus out­break in the Amer­ica and the South Pa­cific con­tin­ues to evolve and its spread is likely to con­tinue as the vec­tor species Aedes ae­gypti and Aedes al­bopic­tus are widely dis­trib­uted through­out the world. WHO has de­clared that the re­cent clus­ter of Zika virus as pub­lic health emer­gency of in­ter­na­tional con­cern but Bhutan need not worry about the virus now as per the health of­fi­cials. On 29th Au­gust 2016, the Sin­ga­porean govern­ment also re­ported 41 con­firmed cases of lo­cally trans­mit­ted cases Zika virus in the coun­try.

In no­ti­fi­ca­tion is­sued by the Min­istry of Health last week all the hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tion has been asked to in­form the clin­i­cians in their re­spec­tive hos­pi­tal to ask for travel his­tory for ev­ery­one pre­sent­ing with the symp­toms sim­i­lar to other ar­bovirus in­fec­tions such as dengue, and in­clude fever, skin rashes, con­junc­tivi­tis, mus­cle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symp­toms are usu­ally mild and last for 2-7 days.

The health Sec­re­tary, Dr. Ugen Do­phu in an ear­lier in­ter­view with BBS said all the flights com­ing in and go­ing out of the coun­try are sprayed with anti-mos­quito in­sec­ti­cides.

The Sec­re­tary said an­nounce­ments in the flights also say if peo­ple have symp­toms like Zika in­fec­tion, to re­port to the health desk at Paro air­port.

Also, the vec­tor con­trol pro­gramme is car­ry­ing out in­ten­sive sur­veil­lance in south­ern part of the coun­try with one full ded­i­cated en­to­molo- gist look­ing after Zika.

The sec­re­tary added that the health work­ers are con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing be­cause there is dengue out­break in Phuentshol­ing.

Based on avail­able ev­i­dence, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has is­sued no gen­eral re­stric­tions on travel or trade with coun­tries, ar­eas and/or ter­ri­to­ries with Zika virus trans­mis­sion.

How­ever, WHO is ad­vis­ing preg­nant women not to travel to ar­eas with on­go­ing Zika virus out­break. This advice is based on the in­creased risk of mi­cro­cephaly and other con­gen­i­tal mal­for­ma­tions in ba­bies born to preg­nant women in­fected with Zika virus. Mi­cro­cephaly is a con­di­tion where baby is born with a small head or the head stops grow­ing after birth.

As a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, some na­tional govern­ments may make pub­lic health and travel rec­om­men­da­tions to their own pop­u­la­tions, based on their as­sess­ment of the avail­able ev­i­dence and lo­cal risk fac­tors.

As per WHO women who have had un­pro­tected sex and do not wish to be­come preg­nant due to con­cerns about Zika virus in­fec­tion have ready ac­cess to emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive ser­vices and coun­sel­ing.

Bhutan is a small county with lim­ited pop­u­la­tion and re­sources we can­not ef­fort to have Zika virus in the coun­try. With 41 con­firmed cases in Sin­ga­pore and the ef­forts put on by the Min­istry of Health the epi­demic may not come to Bhutan too soon. But let’s keep Zika at bay for now.

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