MUSCAT: At present, the possibility of the Zika viral disease spreading in the Sultanate is very low, Oman’s Ministry of Health (MoH), said in a statement.
The disease is still confined to the Americas and some adjacent islands, as travel is associated with sporadic cases reported in some other countries. So far, no local cases have been detected in any of the other continents. The MoH is following closely the spread of the Zika virus in those countries.
Zika is a viral disease, caused by the Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that spreads Chikungunya and Dengue.
The Sultanate has competent public health expertise and epidemiological surveillance systems to detect and deal with such cases. Health workers employed in health institutions, as well as in the central laboratory, have been trained to test for Chikungunya and Dengue.
Arrangements have been made at the central public health laboratory for Zika testing. The ministry has taken steps to prevent its spread: Such as alerting healthcare providers and the public about the disease, mode of transmission and prevention, providing diagnostic tests at the Central Public Health Laboratory, which is expected to arrive in the Sultanate in next few weeks.
It will also support mosquito control programmes, the potential to control the insect vector and eliminate breeding areas by draining stagnant water pools or removing the water rafting, even if it is a small quantity, in the empty cans, tyres and containers of flowers, etc. In 1952, the Zika virus was identified in humans in Uganda and Tanzania.
Outbreaks of the Zika viral disease have been reported for the first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013, and recently in the Americas. In addition, a number of countries reported the Zika virus in late January, saying it has reached 27 countries.
It is transmitted to human beings by the bite of the female Aedesaegypti mosquito when it sucks the blood of an infected patient.
Symptoms of the disease may include fever, skin rashes, conjunctives, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for several days. It requires no specific treatment and deaths are rare.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the recent Zika situation constitutes a Public Health Emergency of international concern. It also noted that a marked increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) cases and foetus with microcephaly in most of the affected countries.
The WHO agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven.
Since there is no available vaccine or medicine for the Zika disease, the preventive measures require pregnant women to postpone travel to infected countries for their safety, as well as for their baby’s safety.
In case of emergency travel, travellers should protect themselves by avoiding mosquito bites by doing the following: wearing long-sleeved clothes that cover as much of the body as possible, using insect repellents that can also be used by the pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers and using permethrin treated clothes, including boots, pants, socks, tents and mosquito nets. One should also avoid sleeping outdoors.