US issues Zika travel alert for Philippines

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US issues Zika travel alert for Philippines

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(UPDATED) The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory for travelers, especially pregnant women, to postpone non-essential travels to 11 Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, is applicable only for pregnant women travelers who are US citizens and not for the Filipinos.

“Lilinawin lang natin, ang travel notice ay para sa travelers, especially pregnant women, to avoid non-essential travels. So kung essential travel, pwede; hindi siya total restriction. Hindi kagaya sa Singapore at Brazil which is ‘don’t travel’,” DOH Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag told the Philippines News Agency in an interview.

The CDC earlier issued an advisory warning travelers, especially pregnant women, coming to several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, to postpone non-essential travels due to the Zika virus.

The CDC said the Zika virus has been present in areas of Southeast Asia for many years, with several countries reporting occasional cases of the infection.

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The other Southeast Asian countries in the list are Brunei, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Timor Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam.

If traveling to the 11 countries is deemed inevitable, the CDC urged pregnant women to first consult with their doctors.

“Women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, should discuss their travel plans with their doctor,” said the CDC.

In addition, the US health agency said those traveling to any of the Zika-hit countries must prevent mosquito bites at all cost by using insect repellents; wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat; and using bed nets in areas where they are staying.

The CDC also said not having sex or using condoms can reduce the risk of getting Zika from sexual contact.

The travel advisory came after the CDC received reports that there were travellers, who have returned from certain areas of Southeast Asia, that were found to have Zika virus infection.

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Dr. Tayag said the Philippines has been included in the travel notice because it is in the Category 2 wherein there were Zika cases recorded previously

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In the Philippines, there are a total of 12 cases of Zika that have been reported in the past weeks, including one pregnant woman from Cebu.

Aside from these, the first case of Zika was recorded in 2012 when a teenage boy from Cebu was diagnosed to have it even though he had no travel history in the Zika endemic countries.

In the early part of this year, four foreign nationals who got Zika infection and tested positive with it had history of travel in the country.

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Meanwhile, the pregnant women from Cebu diagnosed positive with Zika has been reported to be under stable condition and is healed from Zika.

Her baby was also checked and ultrasound results revealed that there were no fetal abnormalities so far.

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The DOH assured that the baby and the mother will be closely monitored until birth. (PNA)

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