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DOH ARMM bats for increased awareness on Zika virus

COTABATO CITY, March 11 – The Department of Health in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOH-ARMM) has reminded residents not to be alarmed notwithstanding reports on Zika infection cases in the country.

Christine Joy Capin, DOH-ARMM assistant program nurse coordinator on emerging and re-emerging diseases, said that instead of panicking, the public should be “ready and aware” of the virus and its possible complications.

Recently, an American woman who visited the country in January tested positive for Zika virus upon returning home. She was the country’s second laboratory-confirmed case of the mosquito-borne disease. The country had its first reported case of Zika virus infection in 2012, specifically a 15-year-old boy in Cebu.

Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same type of mosquito that causes dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Zika infection symptoms are similar to those attributed to other mosquito-borne infections such as fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, pain behind the eyes and vomiting.

To help protect the residents especially the children, from the virus, DOH-ARMM with the region’s Department of Education, Department of Interior and Local Government, Local Government Units, and non-government organizations provided and installed insecticide-treated screens (ITS) in the region’s public elementary schools.

Capin said the screens were treated with insecticides that can keep out disease-carrying mosquitoes. These screens have to be installed on windows, or doors, of classrooms. She said the ITS’s effectivity can be as long as five years. Each roll extends 1.5 meters by 25 meters and can cover four to six classroom windows.

DOH-ARMM earlier received 120 rolls of ITS from the national government. Capin said they already distributed 70 rolls while the remaining 50 rolls were stocked in the region for emergency purposes.

The ITS rolls were distributed in the five provinces and two cities of the region. She said 20 rolls went to the province of Sulu and 10 rolls each to the other four provinces namely Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and 10 each to the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

The Zika virus has yet to be associated with deaths among adults in the region. However, there is growing evidence that the virus can be harmful to fetuses, causing potentially fatal birth defects such as microcephaly, a birth defect wherein the size of a baby’s head is smaller than expected for his age and sex.

The virus can be sexually transmitted by a man to his sex partner. A woman could pass on the virus to her fetus during pregnancy. As of date, there are no available vaccines, or specific medicines, to prevent and treat Zika infections.

Carin said the best way to prevent Zika infection is to prevent mosquito bites through methods such as using insect repellant, using window and door screens, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. (Bureau of Public Information)
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