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No locally-transmitted Zika infections recorded in PHL – DOH

Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Rosell-Ubial maintained on Friday that the Philippines has yet to record its first locally-transmitted Zika case.

The announcement follows Singapore and Malaysia's first reported cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus infections.

At a press conference, Ubial said that while the Philippines has recorded five transmissions of the Zika virus since 2012, all infections occurred overseas and none were locally transmitted.

"Yun pong na-record na five cases before are what we call imported. Ibig sabihin, nakuha nila yung infection sa ibang bansa at nag-punta sila dito sa Pilipinas," she said.

"Wala po tayong local transmission. Ibig sabihin, wala pong umiikot dito sa Pilipinas na nakuha yung virus galing sa isang taong galing sa endemic countries," she added.

Further, none of the 86 patients the DOH tested with the country's supply of Zika test kits turned out positive for the virus nor were there reported infections by diplomatic posts abroad.

"Wala pa hong nire-report sa 'tin na mga Filipinos affected. Most of those affected are the local population, and some of them are tourists also. Wala pang nare-report from our Embassy in Singapore na Filipino na affected," Ubial said.

Testing kits for Zika uses the symptomatic patient's blood and takes a few hours to a day to confirm the presence of Zika in a patient.

Patients are also tested for chikungunya and dengue, diseases also spread through blood and mosquito bites.

Should they test positive for any of the three diseases, the patient will be confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The DOH and the Bureau of Quarantine have previously issued travel advisories to Filipinos traveling abroad on how to avoid contracting Zika and other dangerous diseases.

Advise for returning Filipinos

Filipinos returning from Zika-affected countries have been urged again to fill out health declaration forms handed at airports truthfully to prevent the possible spread of the virus.

"Importante po ito, hindi po para sila ay ikulong o limitahan ang kanilang movement. Ito po ay mahahalagang ... material po na gagamitin ng ating departamento para kung may sakit, maari po nating ma-contact yung maari nilang nahawa habang sila ay bumabiyahe," BOQ Dir. Dr. Ferchito Avelino said.

Ubial also advised returning Filipinos who have fever to avoid unprotected sex following their arrival as Zika can remain in bodily fluids for six months and spread through sexual intercourse.

"Kung nagkalagnat po yung isang traveler, up to six months po dapat mag-practice ng safe sex kasi yun yung period na pwede pang nasa dugo niya yung zika virus, up to six months," she said.

"Kung hindi naman po nagkalagnat, or asymptomatic yung infection na tinatawag natin, walang manifestation, up to eight weeks. From the time na nanggaling sila sa isang Zika-endemic country, kailangan eight weeks na nagpapractice sila ng safe sex para hindi magkaron ng transmission through sexual contact... (or) blood transfusion," Ubial added.

The Philippines is under category 2 of the World Health Organization for Zika. 

Ubial said that this means there are reported cases in the country but has no recorded local transmissions.

"It's no cause for alarm but we are on heightened alert in the DOH at yun ngang ginagawa natin is to actually make sure that we get all the possible positive cases," she explained.

Ubial hopes Filipinos will cooperate with the DOH and BOQ's anti Zika-initiative to avoid the spread of the infection to the Philippines.

"Hopefully, the country will remain free from additional Zika case. We are hopeful na lahat po tayo ay mag-cooperate para tayo po ay sabay-sabay na i-prevent yung pagpasok ng Zika," Ubial said. — RSJ, GMA News