Bangladesh gears up Zika virus prevention plan after WHO emergency call

REF: Bangladesh official will meet in a “technical committee” meeting on Thursday to devise a plan to prevent the mosquito-borne Zika virus.


Prof AKM Shamsuzzaman, Line Director of the Centre for Disease Control, told they have made the move after the World Health Organization declared the virus an “international public health emergency” on Monday.


The WHO South-East Asian region, of which Bangladesh is a member, has also been urged to “strengthen surveillance and take preventive measures” against the disease which is linked to thousands of suspected cases of birth defects in Brazil.

It later spread rapidly.

Prof Shamsuzzaman said Thursday’s meeting would draft a plan of action which would be finalised with the health minister’s approval.

“The director general (health) will chair the technical committee meeting where all relevant departments will join,” he said.

Bangladeshis have a concern over the Zika virus, as the vector, Aedes Aegypti mosquito, is very much present here. It also causes dengue.

But the government’s disease monitoring agency’s Director Prof Mahmudur Rahman had earlier told that “we don’t have the virus”.

On Tuesday, after the WHO’s emergency call , he said they would prioritise the vector control.

“We are not thinking about surveillance on child births at this moment as we don’t have the virus. We need to control mosquito,” he said.

But this vector control would mostly depend on the individual houses, as the Aedes mosquito breeds in fresh water inside the houses and adjacent areas.

“Brazil has passed a law that would allow the mosquito control authorities to enter the private houses and spray insecticides, if needed,” Prof Rahman said.

WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh has urged countries to take preventive measures against the virus.

“There is no evidence of immunity to the Zika virus in many populations of the Region,”she said.

“In the past, sporadic Zika virus cases were reported from Thailand and the Maldives,” she said, urging countries to share information on suspected cases to enable early detection and containment of any outbreak in the region.

The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis.

The illness is usually mild with the symptoms lasting a week.  There is no vaccine for the disease.

In South America, panic runs high due to the connection of the Zika virus with microcephaly, in which a baby is born with a small head and brain.

The affected American countries have advised women to delay their pregnancies. The US has advised pregnant women not to travel to the afflicted countries.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, while announcing it an international emergency on Monday, sought a coordinated global response to improve detection and speed up work on a vaccine, and asked for better diagnostics.

The WHO is against any curbs on travel or trade.

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