Travellers with fever advised to undergo Zika virus test

KUCHING: Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) has put in place the Zika virus test kit, and feverish travellers from affected countries, especially Singapore, are advised to undergo the test.

Apart from travellers, State Health Assistant Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil also called on mothers with children born with microcephaly, a smaller-than-normal skull often associated with Zika infections, to report to government clinics for their children to go through the same test.

“For those who just travelled back from affected countries especially Singapore and who are not well, going through the test would be good for them. If they are infected, the test would prevent the disease from spreading to their family members.

“It is also good for the state because if they are infected, we can isolate them and treat them to prevent the disease from spreading to other members of the public,” Dr Jerip told The Borneo Post yesterday.

On microcephaly, he disclosed that prior to the outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil, there were already sporadic cases of mothers giving birth to babies with smaller-than-normal skulls in the State.

“We will review all microcephaly cases in the State. We just want them to go through the Zika test to make sure that their rare birth defects are not caused by the Zika virus,” he said.

He explained that these major steps taken by the state government is part and parcel of guidelines given by Ministry of Health to control the spread of Zika virus in the country.

On the Zika virus, Dr Jerip said it is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes to humans and also from human to human.

“The latter part is the alarming part where consequences are much more severe. When it passes from human to human, morbidity is high. The mother will give birth to a baby with a smaller-than-normal skull. That is why we are now very cautious.

“A baby with small head is a form of birth defect which will affect it for the rest of its life. It will be a heavy burden not only on the family but also on health budget later on.

“So we urge pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries to go to government clinics for check-ups,” he advised.

As of yesterday, he said there was no Zika virus infection suspect in Sarawak and no Zika test had been carried out.

As for the effectiveness of thermal screening at Kuching International Airport to curb the spread of Zika, Dr Jerip explained that the thermal detector is only effective in detecting travellers with fever.

“Having a fever does not mean contracting Zika virus. But when a traveller is not well and is coming from an affected country, we can detect the person through the thermal screen. The person can then be isolated and go through the Zika test.

“If the fever is not caused by Zika virus, then he can be released from hospital. Otherwise, we can give him the proper treatment and prevent the disease from spreading.”

Dr Jerip also advised every household to keep their compound clean and get rid of clogged drains which may become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes.

“The local councils and health inspectors have been working hard on eradicating Aedes mosquitoes to prevent dengue. The effort will be continued and intensified in view of the Zika virus,” stressed Dr Jerip.-BP

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