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DOH confirms 2 more Zika cases in Philippines

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday announced that two more persons in Iloilo City have tested positive for Zika, bringing to eight the number of recorded cases in the Philippines.

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said the two new Zika patients are living in the same house with the sixth patient found positive for the virus.

Ubial said that all two new patients showed minor symptoms of Zika such as fever and mild skin rash.

"Because they have mild infection, none if them required hospitalization," she said.

"As of this press conference, they have no more signs and symptoms... We're still monitoring their blood and urine to find out if they are still positive. In the meantime, they are home quarantined, so they stay at home," she added.

The DOH announced last week that the sixth Zika patient contracted the virus while out of the country.

It sent a team to Iloilo City to check if other people living with and near the sixth patient have also contracted Zika.

Bitten by mosquitoes

Ubial said at least 88 houses around the residence of the sixth patient were checked by the city government and found the presence of larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes., the carrier of Zika as well as dengue.

"Because of the mosquito breeding sites that tested positive, apparently there is still a need to heighten alert on vector control in the area," she said.

She said the two new cases were among the 12 people tested for Zika in the community.

The two new patients contracted the virus after being bitten by Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

Pregnant women

Ubial, meanwhile, said that health workers were surveying pregnant women living within the same community for possible infections.

"We're actually monitoring the pregnant women and I instructed the regional office to give them insecticide-treated bed nets so that they can use that during nighttime and then not to put it down during daytime so that mosquitos will be continuously killed by the bed nets," Ubial said.

There are currently 2,500 testing kits for Zika at the DOH's Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the only group allowed to carry out testing until a local spread has been established.

"We're also exploring the possibility of immediate importation should we find cases [that] have been discovered to be positive," Ubial said.

World Health Organization Country Representative Gundo Weiler said they are working closely with the RITM on the laboratory confirmation of possible Zika cases.

"Should we see that there's an an increase in demand for testing, then we can also react quickly and support the department to purchase more test kits," Weiler said.

Screening measures heightened

Ubial said the Iloilo City government has intensified its search and destroy drive to rid the community of the Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

She urged other local government units to also intensify their anti-mosquito campaign in their respective areas.

She said informational material on Zika were distributed by the Bureau of Quarantine in the city while Zika screening measures at the Panay international airport were heightened.

"[The] international airport in the island of Panay also has heightened alert in screening  incoming travelers to identify travel-associated Zika virus," Ubial said.

Meanwhile, the health secretary stated that the Philippines will not follow the lead of Malaysia's ban on school trips to Singapore and the Philippines. Singapore has also reported locally-transmitted Zika cases.

"The preventive measures [that] each country will have to adapt is based on their context. We respect the decision of Malaysia but we are not adopting those measures as of now because our context is different from Malaysia," Ubial said. —ALG, GMA News