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FAQs about Zika

Is it really true that the Zika virus is now infecting Filipinos? What’s so dreadful about this virus? What can we do to prevent its spread?

When a Zika virus epidemic erupted in North and South America two years ago, it became a distinct possibility that in time, the virus will reach the Philippines if only because Filipinos travel a lot and that we have a healthy population of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito, all over the country. Hence, the Department of Health (DOH) announcement last week that confirms a sixth case of Zika infection in the Philippines since 2012 came as no surprise, especially because an outbreak of the virus has been affecting our neighbor, Singapore, since last month.

(Manila Bulletin)

(Manila Bulletin)

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus is the microorganism that causes Zika fever, a mosquito-borne illness that was first reported in 1954. Its name comes from the Zika forest of Uganda where it was first isolated. Since the 1950s, it has been endemic within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. In 2014, however, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. The outbreak is currently already a pandemic

How is the Zika virus transmitted?

Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily by the Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that Filipinos are very familiar with because it is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and Chikungunya viruses. Aedes mosquitoes, which will surely not mind transmitting another virus, become infected with Zika when they bite a person with Zika fever. Infected mosquitoes then spread the virus to other people through bites.

In addition to mosquito bites, the Zika virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth, and through sexual intercourse, which makes Zika fever the newest confirmed sexually transmitted disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of Zika fever?

Zika fever is a generally mild, self-limiting illness that lasts for several days to a week. Often, the disease does not even cause any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they appear two to seven days after infection and include fever, skin rash, joint pain, and redness of the eyes. As a rule, people with Zika fever do not get sick enough to merit hospitalization. Once a person has been infected with Zika, he/she is likely to be immune from future infections.

How can we prevent Zika infection?

There is no vaccine against the Zika virus yet, although scientists are working on it.  In the meantime the best way to prevent the disease from affecting you or from spreading is by minimizing travel to areas where there is an outbreak and by protecting yourself from mosquito bites:

Screen your house. Alternately, use mosquito nets, mosquito repellants, or mosquito coils (katol) and mats.

Eliminate all possible breeding places of mosquitoes: fill potholes; cover water containers and septic tanks; do not allow empty cans, soft drink bottles, spare tires, etc. to accumulate water; ensure that drains and gutters are not clogged and that water flows freely in sewage lines; and dispose of garbage properly and regularly.