‘Dengue mosquito’s presence can lead to Zika virus outbreak’

Health dept holds awareness session as part of preparatory measures


Our Correspondent February 12, 2016
The Zika virus is a flu-like disease that is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Not a single case of Zika virus has surfaced recently in Pakistan but there is a need for caution, especially for pregnant women, medical experts have warned.

Health experts believe that chances of microcephaly - the birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and improperly developed brains - exist in Pakistan. Dr Naseem Salahuddin, an infectious diseases specialist at Indus Hospital, said the first case of Zika virus was reported in Pakistan in the early 1950s. "An infected person recovers gradually with normal medicine," she said, explaining that the virus spreads from one place to another through mosquitoes.

China confirms first case of Zika virus: Xinhua

As the general public seems to be unworried about the possible outbreak of the virus, health managers are taking precautionary measures nevertheless. The provincial health department conducted an awareness session on Friday with healthcare providers and health managers at ZA Nizami Hall, Civic Centre.

"It is time to make the masses aware about this particular virus," said Karachi health services director Dr Zafar Ejaz. "Some people seem worried about the virus, but there is no need to panic, at least at this stage," he explained. "The panic is due to lack of proper information about the Zika virus."

Zika virus — be prepared

Healthcare providers and health managers have been directed to disseminate proper information to the public. "We are aware of the issue and are taking all possible measures in case the virus surfaces," he assured.

Symptoms

Medical experts say the symptoms of a patient who has contracted the Zika virus are similar to those of other viruses like fever, headache and body ache.

Explaining the symptoms, Salahuddin said the infected person gets a mild fever, joint pain, body ache and radish eyes. "Mild symptoms occur in the patient," said Dr Ejaz. He added that most symptoms go unnoticed due to resemblances with the common fever.

Precautionary measures

Doctors have urged people to avoid frequent visits to countries where cases of Zika virus have been reported in the thousands, like those in South America.

Dr Masood Solangi, programme manager of Dengue Prevention and Control Programme, said the host of the virus is the same as that of dengue. "The host is already available in Pakistan, especially in Karachi and Lahore," he briefed participants.  He said the worldwide panic began after the births of abnormal babies in Brazil.

Solangi explained that a normal person can recover from the virus in two to seven days. "There is no need to be hospitalised in this case [contracting Zika]," he added.

Zika virus tied to birth defects is international emergency, WHO says

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus an international public health emergency due to its link to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, as the UN agency seeks to build a global response to the threat. WHO officials are unsure that the virus causes microcephaly.

The organisation said last week that the virus, transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, was "spreading explosively" and could infect as many as four million people in the Americas. The Pan American Health Organization says Zika has spread in 24 nations and territories in the Americas.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2016.

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