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PNG warned on Zika virus outbreak

Papua New Guinea has not come across any Zika virus as yet, however the Department of Health has warned people to take precautions and get tested if the virus is suspected for quick response.

Zika (“zee-ka”) virus is a virus spread by Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that can carry dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Prior to a large outbreak of mild illness in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia in 2007, Zika virus has never caused an outbreak.

In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus and since then the disease has spread within Brazil and to 24 other countries in the Americas as well as a few other countries in the Pacific, especially in Samoa and Tonga.

The disease has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and also in cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome (a condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system), sometimes resulting in an acute flaccid paralysis.

This prompted the World Health Organisation to declare as of 1 February 2016 that the Zika virus outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern.

Secretary for Health, Mr Pascoe Kase is requesting the public to consult with their health care provider if they think they may have the Zika virus .

“Because PNG has the Aedes mosquito and because the PNG population is likely not immune as there has never been a Zika outbreak here, the country is at risk for a potential Zika outbreak.

“ Tt should be noted that PNG has the capacity to test Zika virus and can therefore respond quickly in the case of a positive diagnosis, “ Mr Kase said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health with technical support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is increasing surveillance of Zika virus disease as well as cases of microcephaly or (GBS) that may be caused by Zika virus.

The symptoms are similar to malaria, dengue and chikungunya to which a person will experience fever often less than 38.0 degrees Celsius, Skin rash, headache, muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and fatigue.

Mr Kase said there was no specific medicine to treat Zika virus and that it would not respond to anti malaria medications or antibiotics, thus treatment should be symptomatic: patients should rest and drink plenty water, and pain and fever could be treated with paracetamol.

Pregnant women are also advised to limit exposure to mosquitoes.


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