Zika outbreak

Philippines sees 1st local transmission of Zika this year

Woman had not been to any Zika-affected country in past two weeks: Officials

A school classroom being fumigated on the eve of the annual national Primary School Evaluation Test in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. Malaysia has so far recorded two Zika infections.
A school classroom being fumigated on the eve of the annual national Primary School Evaluation Test in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. Malaysia has so far recorded two Zika infections. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Philippines yesterday reported the first case of a locally transmitted Zika infection for the year, its sixth Zika case since 2012.

Health officials said a 45-year-old woman in the central city of Iloilo, 600km south of Manila, had tested positive for Zika. She is married but not pregnant and had no history of travelling to any Zika- affected country in the past two weeks.

The patient went to a hospital on Aug 31 to have herself tested. Samples taken from her were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which yesterday confirmed it as a Zika infection.

"We are expecting additional cases because of this new development," Assistant Health Minister Eric Tayag told reporters.

The Health Ministry has sent a team to Iloilo to look for more cases, he said. "If there's local transmission, we should expect additional cases. We're going to make sure we do not miss any case," he said.

The woman had not been quarantined, but was told to avoid risky sexual contact for at least eight weeks. "The only way she can spread it to others is by sexual transmission," said Dr Tayag.

He said health officials would test those who had come in contact with the woman, especially those who had shown signs of fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis and joint pains.

"We should also consider other means of transmission. But at this time, it is highly likely that it is local rather than otherwise," he said.

Dr Tayag said the Health Ministry had been testing patients since Jan 1, but this was the first Zika case to be confirmed this year.

The last confirmed case of locally transmitted Zika in the Philippines was in May 2012, involving a 15-year-old male in Cebu city, 572km south of Manila. The patient, who was first thought to have contracted dengue or chikungunya, recovered after three weeks, taking only acetaminophen.

A US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bulletin said earlier that a strain of the mosquito-borne virus might have been introduced in the Philippines before 2012, and that it probably remained undetected. CDC bulletins showed Zika infections in the Philippines and Indonesia were detected only after targeted surveillance following outbreaks of dengue or chikungunya, or during long-term studies over specific areas.

The Philippines has reported four other cases this year, but these involved an American and three South Korean travellers.

Zika has now spread to 72 countries, according to Dr Gundo Weiler, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to the Philippines. "WHO is watching very carefully development of Zika globally and in the region," he said.

Malaysia, which has so far recorded two infections, yesterday decreed that all public housing and landscaping projects in public recreational parks must utilise insect traps in their construction sites.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar said the move was necessary to minimise contraction of mosquito-borne diseases, the New Straits Times reported.

"Developers who do not comply with this ruling of setting insect traps will be punished or have their licences suspended. Areas such as new housing developments and recreational parks undergoing upgrading have, in the past, been identified as mosquito-breeding locations," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline Philippines sees 1st local transmission of Zika this year. Subscribe