Laos on alert for possible Zika virus outbreak
VIENTIANE — Health authorities will continue to collaborate with international organizations and the local population to monitor the global and national situation regarding the possibility of a Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak.
At present, even though it has not been officially reported in Laos, health authorities are gearing up to combat any potential outbreak of the virus.
Efforts include strengthening the vector programme through community ownership as the transmission of Zika is similar to that of dengue fever, an official said.
Acting Director of the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology, Ministry of Health, Dr Onechanh Keosavanh told Vientiane Times yesterday at the launch of a training session on Zika virus surveillance that health authorities are actively working to prevent the spread of the virus.
He said preparations to fight against the virus would focus on the three target provinces of Xayaboury, Khammuan and Xekong, which border neighbouring countries.
“The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito that also transmits chikungunya, dengue, and yellow fever. We know that this vector is present in Laos as we continue to see dengue and chikungunya infections every year,” he said.
The ministry would enhance surveillance activities for the Zika virus, distribute information about ZIKV to the general population and special groups, regularly monitor traditional and social media on rumours circulating about the virus, and enhance mosquito vector control and surveillance, he added.
ZIKV interim guidelines have been developed and existing dengue-like illness and acute fever and rash syndrome surveillance systems have been strengthened. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Zika virus first caught the world’s attention when thousands of cases reported in Brazil dating back to 2015 appeared to suggest a strong correlation with foetal brain deformities amongst the newborn children of infected pregnant women.
The possible links have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.
It is estimated that about 23 countries are suffering from a Zika outbreak, with about 4 million people infected with the disease.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for the virus; the best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
Most people who are infected do not show symptoms and those who do usually have a mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
All countries should base their Zika threat assessment on evidence and consider local risk factors and consequences in relation to their population.
Most patients are treated with common pain and fever medicines and advised to drink plenty of water and get sufficient rest.