Gov’t warns of risk of imported Zika cases

Gov’t warns of risk of imported Zika cases

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Ministry of Health (MoH) has warned of the risk of imported Zika cases in Brunei as many Bruneians travel to Singapore, which has reported 50 local Zika transmissions over the weekend.

MoH Medical Superintendent of Public Health Dr Justin Wong said Brunei is prepared in managing imported cases of Zika virus.

“Brunei’s preparedness is based on strengthening the capacity to prevent cases, detect cases early and control transmission to prevent an outbreak, which is in line with international health regulations,” he said during a press conference yesterday. “We are doing everything we can to make sure that we are prepared for the possibility of introduction (of Zika into the country), he added.

There have been no reported cases of Zika virus infections in Brunei at press time.

Dr Wong said even though the disease has been reported in about 70 countries since the start of the outbreak in May 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has at the moment not issued any travel or trade restrictions with Zika-affected countries, or advice for any screening or isolation of travellers at points of entry. “This is presumably because the disease doesn’t happen overnight, so it could be three days later when you develop symptoms (of Zika).

“So it’s more important for patients and the public to be aware of presenting themselves to a health centre or general practitioner (GP) if they develop symptoms after having returned from a Zika-affected country,” Dr Wong added.

Most cases of Zika infections do not show any signs or symptoms, but a small percentage of patients may experience symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, conjunctivitis (red eye) and rash.

The infection may also be associated with neurological symptoms and microcephaly in newborns, he said.

Head of Maternal Health Services Dr Hjh Roslin Hj Sharbawi said there is no specific treatment for Zika, and treatment will mostly be supportive.

“If the patient presents himself or herself to a health centre and is found to have these symptoms, we will question them about their travel history and whether they have visited affected countries recently.

“If so, we will take action to refer these patients for further tests to check whether they have contracted Zika,” Dr Hjh Roslin said.

In the meantime, patients will receive medicine to relieve symptoms, such as paracetamol for fevers or headaches, she added.

Dr Wong said: “If there is a Zika case, our priority first of all from MoH is to make sure that the patient is treated and becomes well.

“We will treat every case with utmost gravity, we will do contact tracing and active monitoring of those who have come into contact with the infected patient such as those in the household — that is what our plan of action is with regards to that,” he added.

He said MoH encouraged those who have to or wish to travel to Zika-affected countries to take precautionary measures such as wearing long-sleeved clothing and long trousers to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, and to use mosquito coils or mosquito net while sleeping.

According to Dr Wong, MoH’s entomological (insect) surveillance has shown that the Aedes mosquito — the vector or carrier for Zika, as well as diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis — is routinely present in Brunei.

Due to this, there is a need for the support and cooperation of all members of the public in Brunei to collectively share responsibility in preventing mosquito breeding grounds, especially within their premises.

People need to regularly ensure that all drains are clean, functioning properly and not blocked, that all rubbish is disposed of properly, and that flower pots, pails or buckets and tyres are not collecting and holding stagnant water.

MoH also said there is a risk of Zika transmission through sexual contact.

Permanent Secretary of Health Hj Zakaria Hj Serudin said his ministry is having discussions with Singapore’s Ministry of Health to get updates on what they were doing in terms of the progress and status of Zika virus infections there.

MoH also said they will continue to monitor evolving Zika-related events in collaboration with the WHO and implement necessary measures, including informing the public of any further developments.

AMANDA YAP
The Brunei Times

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