Zika virus: Govt intensifies surveillance

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government has intensified its surveillance towards the type of mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus and identification of possible cases coming into the country following last week’s declaration by the World Health Organisation to treat the outbreak in Brazil as a global emergency.

National malaria coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Joseph Mberikunashe, however, said the type of mosquito that is spreading the virus was currently not present in Zimbabwe.

“The mosquito aedes africanus is found in Uganda, parts of Nigeria and the South Pacific. It is not our typical anopheles mosquito that causes malaria in the country,” said Dr Mberikunashe.

“It is probably about survival conditions for this kind of mosquito. It seems to prefer very humid areas and if it was to come in our country we expect it to survive maybe in the Zambezi Valley. At the moment, we do not have this type of mosquito and we will continue to be on the lookout for it,” he said.

Dr Mberikunashe said following a recent resolution by WHO to declare the outbreak a global emergency, local health officials met in Harare and resolved to strengthen the surveillance system and increase education on Zika virus particularly to those travelling to and from the affected countries.

“Health education remains the most important thing.

“As our people travel to and from the affected countries, they need to know that there is this disease out there,” he said.

Dr Mberikunashe said although symptoms of Zika virus in adults are similar to typical malaria or any other disease, travellers from the affected countries should seek medical attention as soon as they suspect they might be infected. Zika virus symptoms include fever, rash, muscle pain, joint pain, pain behind eyes and headache. Its incubation period is between two and seven days.

Dr Mberikunashe said there were still many medical questions to be answered as there is also talk that the virus can spread sexually by an infected person.

“The modes of transmission are not very clear now but what we know is it is not infectious as Ebola hence in terms of management it is in a different category from Ebola,” he said.

Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes to humans and by infected women to unborn babies. Brazil which is hardest hit has so far recorded nearly 300 confirmed cases and about 4 000 more suspected.

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