Health authorities seek to tackle Zika threat
THE ARRIVAL of Myanmar’s first documented case of Zika has prompted health authorities to boost disease control efforts, in a bid to contain its spread.
Following the announcement of a case presenting in Yangon, the Ministry of Health and Sports says it is stepping up monitoring mechanisms across the country.
The health ministry announced on October 27 that a pregnant foreigner living in Yangon’s Sanchaung township had been diagnosed with Zika. Her nationality and name were withheld, but she is reportedly undergoing medical treatment.
Department officials said on November 1 that over 40 potential Zika cases had been identified and underwent testing – but none tested positive. Since the first confirmed case, no other cases have been diagnosed.
The Yangon Public Health Department is rolling out measures to keep mosquito populations in check.
Dr Khin Nan Lon, the deputy of Yangon Region’s Department of Public Health, said officials will be proactively looking to stem the breeding of mosquitoes. Sanchaung township is receiving particular attention.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito also carries yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and the West Nile virus. They breed in stagnant water – often in uncovered barrels, buckets, and discarded tires. However, the health department says the greatest concern is home bathrooms and water tanks.
“We will undertake mosquito control every second week of month. This is the best way to prevent and protect from both the Zika virus and dengue fever,” Dr Khin Nan Lon said. Deputy director general of the Department of Public Health Dr Than Htun Aung has urged the public to inform health authorities if symptoms of Zika are displayed – particularly if the patient has recently travelled to countries where Zika has presented.
In Mandalay, two permanent medical officers have been assigned to monitor tourists entering the airport, as well as to provide public education, said Mandalay Region Public Health Department health officer Dr Win Naing.
“The public has been informed to report to the nearest clinic if four symptoms of Zika virus are present. Fumigation is being done to control the spread of mosquitoes,” Dr Win Naing added.
Just one in five people infected with Zika will exhibit symptoms, including mild fever, headache, joint pains, conjunctivitis, vomiting and skin rashes. If symptoms appear, they will typically show between two and seven days following the mosquito bite. Zika can also be sexually transmitted.
The Ministry of Health and Sports issued an alert in early September that pregnant women or those trying to conceive ought to avoid visiting Zikaafflicted countries.
Dr Than Htun Aung says the death rate of Zika is low, but there are a range of complications possible for infected pregnant women.
“Pregnancy could cause problems such as a baby being born with microcephaly, or disrupted brain growth,” he said. Zika has also been linked with the rare auto-immune disorder Guillian-Barré Syndrome.
“The best way to avoid Zika is to try not to be bitten by mosquitoes, and controlling their breeding,” said Dr Than Htun Aung. “Pregnant women and those attempting to conceive should be aware that it is important not to bitten.”