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Zika alert – Manila now threatened

IT was perhaps inevitable that the Zika virus would reach us in the Philippines, considering today’s modern means of transportation and the fact that Filipinos are all over the world today.

Two Zika infestations were reported in Iloilo last September as the Department of Health (DoH) kept up its watch all over the country against the virus which has spread all over South and Central America and the United States. Then it crossed the Pacific Ocean to Thailand and Singapore, where over 300 cases have now been reported.

Last week, Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial came out with the report that there are now 17 cases in the Philippines and two of them are right here in Metro Manila – in Makati and Mandaluyong. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada this weekend alerted all six city hospitals and 59 community health centers to be ready to handle Zika infections. It is only a matter of time before Manila has its first Zika case, Dr. Benjamin Yson of the Manila Health Department said.

The Zika virus is spread by the same kind of mosquito that spreads Dengue and Chikungunya. These mosquitoes breed in dirty surroundings with stagnant water. Manila with its 1.6-million population is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with many people living in crowded communities with neglected surroundings.

Mayor Estrada has directed city health officials to be ready for Zika patients. He may well issue a corollary order to barangay officials to check on possible breeding places of mosquitoes and clean them up. During the ongoing rainy season, there must be many of these neglected areas which now pose an additional danger as possible breeding sites for Zika-spreading mosquitoes.

The DoH has drawn up a “Four S” approach that all local governments throughout the country may well carry out in the face of the steadily spreading Zika infection – Search and destroy possible breeding sites; assure Self-protection against mosquito bites through proper clothing; Seek early consultation; and Say yes to fogging if there is a cluster of cases in a locality.

This is good advice for all localities in the country, not just for Metro Manila. Zika has now spread all over the world and the World Health Organization fears that there may be as many as four million cases by the end of the year.

We are fortunate that we have so far only 17 cases. Let us take all possible steps to ensure that any new cases will be held down with vigorous clean-up drives, especially in this rainy season.