Asian countries urge sick travellers to report Zika symptoms
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, January 30, 2016 7:25AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 30, 2016 11:14AM EST
The Zika virus is spreading rapidly in Latin America, and Asian governments have issued advisories in a bid to contain the mosquito-borne disease, which could be linked to birth defects and can cause temporary paralysis.
A look at some of the measures announced:
South Korean officials have advised pregnant women against travelling to Central and South America and required doctors to immediately report suspected cases.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare included the Zika virus among infectious diseases monitored as potential health threats. Doctors can face fines of up to 2 million won ($1,654) for failing to report patients infected or showing symptoms of infection.
The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also been sending text messages to people travelling in regions where Zika has spread to inform them of the disease and preventive measures.
The Department of Health has advised pregnant women to consider deferring non-essential travel to Zika-hit countries and reiterated its warning to the public to destroy all breeding places of mosquitoes, which can spread dengue and other tropical diseases.
No current Zika cases have been reported in the country but in 2012, a 15-year-old boy reportedly was infected in central Cebu city but recovered fully, according to health department spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy.
Health officials have worked to raise public awareness about ways to prevent infections, including by using insect repellents and wearing protective clothing.
"We've repeatedly urged people not to be hard-headed and keep their surroundings clean and mosquito-free. Again, let's not spring into action only when an infection's already here," Lee Suy said.
Health authorities have asked travellers from South and Central America who display symptoms such as fever and rashes to immediately report to health centres.
Deputy Health Director Dr. Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the move was imperative as it was not practical to conduct public health screenings at national gateways.
"The virus is difficult to detect and there is no quick point-of-care test which can be used," he said.
Japan's Foreign Ministry urges women to try to avoid travelling to Brazil and other affected countries during pregnancy, and advised all travellers to the region to use caution. It suggested wearing long sleeves and pants, using mosquito sprays and avoid leaving out buckets and other containers that can catch water, and report to medical institutions in case of developing suspected symptoms.
The health authorities asked medical facilities to test suspected patients returning from affected areas and send samples to the national lab.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising pregnant women to avoid travel in areas where Zika is active.
The federal government is also asking Australian doctors to look out for signs of Zika infection in travellers returning from affected areas. A spokeswoman said Australian laboratories could diagnose the virus if required.
Cambodia's only Zika case recovered in 2010 after treatment.
The Health Ministry is advising caution and says it's following the situation in countries with the Zika virus closely. It's also urging people to destroy mosquito-breeding places.
Health Minister Shri J. P. Naddahas has stressed controlling the spread of Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue and the Zika virus and breed in clean water.
"Community awareness plays an instrumental role in this regard," he said.
India is also stepping up surveillance and has set up a technical group to monitor the situation.
Health officials are advising pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to adopt necessary anti-mosquito precautions, and consider deferring travel.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Ko Wing-man also said that because only up to one quarter of the infected persons might develop relatively mild illness, "the attention was therefore not too big."
Aedes mosquitoes are not found in Hong Kong, but the secretary said other species of mosquito present in the territory are also considered as possible carriers of the disease.
The Vietnamese health authority has warned people coming from countries with the Zika virus to monitor their health for 14 days and if they develop fever to report to medical facilities.
The health authority also warned people to empty water containers and use mosquito nets to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
Associated Press writers Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia; Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Tran V. Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.