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Zika triggers travel alert vs PH, SEA countries

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised pregnant women to “consider postponing nonessential travel” to several southeast Asian countries—including the Philippines—because of the Zika virus.

In a recent advisory posted on its website, the CDC said that while travel notices had not been issued  specifically for the Philippines, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam, “special travel considerations” should be made for these “endemic countries in Southeast Asia.”

“These countries have either reported local Zika virus transmission or are next to countries with known Zika virus transmission. Because of this, CDC recommends pregnant women should consult with their healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel to (these countries),” the CDC said.

It said the issuance of travel notices to these Southeast Asian countries “would be considered if the number of cases rises to the level of outbreak.”

The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects.

According to the CDC, those who do decide to travel to the Philippines in particular “should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual exposure” to the Zika virus.

It said those who have travelled recently to the Philippines and have symptoms of the Zika virus infection should consider undergoing the virus testing.

“Zika is endemic in the Philippines, and the risk to travelers is unknown but likely lower than in areas where Zika is newly introduced and spreading widely,” the CDC said.

Twelve Zika virus infection cases have so far been documented in the country this year, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

Of the 12 cases, the DOH said eight patients were female, including a 22-year-old woman from Cebu who is 19 weeks pregnant with her first child.

The DOH said patients affected by Zika range from 9 to 55 years old.

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