Monday, February 1, 2016

Doctors to keep a sharp eye on Zika

Minister for Health, Community Development,

Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly Persons and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, briefs journalists on the Zika virus at a press conference in Dodoma yesterday. PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI 

By Athuman Mtulya @mtulya amtulya@tz.nationmedia.com

Dodoma. The government has directed doctors across the country to immediately report any case of babies born with abnormally small heads to avert any possible spread of Zika fever.

The minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, yesterday allayed fears over the fever, saying there is no single case reported in the country as of yesterday.

The abnormality is linked with Zika virus, and already Brazil has reported hundreds of cases. Twenty two countries in the Americas are currently battling the fever and has thrown the whole world into panic.

According to Ms Mwalimu, as her ministry is continuing to monitor the disease, people should stay put and rush to hospital any time they experience symptoms of the disease which is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, skin rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Infected patients are typically ill for a few days to a week.

“We have already directed district and regional medical officers to file daily reports on the state of patients with fever cases which are not malaria for in-depth examinations to be conducted, and check if the virus (Zika) is already in the country. At the same time people should avoid mosquito bites as much as they can, and destroy all possible mosquito breeding places,” said the minister.

Already, the disease is getting out of the current focal point, Latin America, as the United States and Europe have already seen “imported cases”—people who arrived from a Zika-affected country carrying the virus.

According to Ms Mwalimu, local authorities are already monitoring all country entry points while the government is awaiting resolutions of today’s World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting over the Zika fever outbreak.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan will chair the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus in Geneva to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

According to WHO, the virus was accidentally discovered in monkeys of the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 by scientists who were working on another viral disease, yellow fever.

In 1952, the disease was identified in humans starting with the Lake Victoria regions of Uganda and Tanzania, and by 1981, it had been reported in five other African countries ­ Central African Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The Zika virus has in the past also caused mild diseases across equatorial Asia.

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