Asian countries urge sick travelers to report Zika symptoms
The Zika virus is spreading rapidly in Latin America, and Asian governments have issued advisories in a bid to contain the spread of the disease, which could be linked to birth defects and can cause temporary paralysis. So far, no Zika case has been confirmed anywhere in Asia.
A look at some of the measures announced:
South Korean officials have advised pregnant women against traveling to Central and South America and required doctors to immediately report suspected cases.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Friday also included the Zika virus among the group of infectious diseases recognized and monitored as potential health threats. Doctors can now face fines of up to 2 million won ($1,654) for failing to report patients infected by the mosquito-borne disease or showing symptoms of infection.
The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also been sending text messages to people traveling in the Zika regions to inform them of the disease and preventive measures. An official from the center said it has no plans yet to strengthen temperature checks at airports as that would only stoke unnecessary fear.
Health authorities have asked travelers from South and Central America who display symptoms such as fever and rashes to immediately report to health centers.
Deputy Health Director Dr. Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the move was imperative as it was not practical to conduct public health screenings at national gateways.
“The virus is difficult to detect and there is no quick point-of-care test which can be used,” he said.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry has issued a safety advisory urging women to try to avoid traveling to Brazil and other affected countries during pregnancy, and advised all travelers to the area to use caution. It suggested wearing long sleeves and pants, using mosquito sprays and avoid leaving out buckets, empty gardening pots and other containers that can catch water, and report to medical institutions in case of developing suspected symptoms.
The health authorities asked medical facilities to advise pregnant women not to visit the Zika areas, conduct test on suspected patients returning from the areas and send samples to the national lab.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising pregnant women to avoid travel in areas where Zika is active.
The federal government is also asking Australian doctors to look out for signs of Zika infection in travelers returning from affected areas. A spokeswoman said Australian laboratories could diagnose the virus if required.
Health Minister Shri J. P. Naddahas has stressed the control of the spread of Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue and the Zika virus and breed in clean water.
“Community awareness plays an instrumental role in this regard. There is a need for greater awareness amongst community,” he said.
India is also stepping up surveillance and has set up a technical group to monitor the situation.
Health officials are advising pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to adopt necessary anti-mosquito precautions, and consider deferring trips to areas with Zika virus transmissions.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Ko Wing-man also said that because only up to one quarter of the infected persons might develop relatively mild illness, “the attention was therefore not too big.”
Aedes mosquitoes are currently not found in Hong Kong, the Health Department said, but the secretary said that other species of mosquito present in the territory are also considered as possible carriers of the disease.
The Vietnamese health authority has warned people coming from countries with the Zika virus to monitor their health for 14 days and if they develop fever to report to medical facilities.
The health authority also warned people to empty water containers and use mosquito nets to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
Associated Press writers Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia; Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Tran V. Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.