MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Department of Health (DOH) announced 6 new cases of Zika virus on Tuesday, September 20.
Four of the patients are from Iloilo City, while the two other patients are from Cebu City and Laguna, the DOH said.
This brings to 9 the total number of locally-transmitted Zika virus cases in the Philippines this 2016, with ages ranging from 9 years old to 49 years old. Six out of the 9 cases are women.
The 6 new cases had no history of travel to other countries within a month preceding the onset of illness, DOH Spokesperson Eric Tayag told reporters.
They acquired the virus through mosquito bites and exhibited skin rashes and joint pains, but they are expected to have recovered by this time.
In addition, Tayag said that based on initial information, the 4 new cases in Iloilo City are not connected to the earlier reported Zika cases in the area, as the areas in question are more than 10 kilometers apart.
Zika, which resembles a light case of the flu, is transmitted by mosquito species found in tropical and sub-tropical regions: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, or tiger mosquitoes.
The disease is strongly suspected of causing birth defects such as microcephaly and other brain deformities in newborns.
Testing for Zika
Tayag clarified on Tuesday that they have not recommended any travel restriction to Iloilo City, where most of the cases are located.
"We have not recommended pregnant women not to visit Iloilo City," Tayag said.
"What we have recommended is for pregnant women to ask doctors any instructions regarding their pregnancy."
Tayag explained that Iloilo City can be declared Zika-free again if no new case of the virus is reported in the next 45 days.
World Health Organization Representative in the Philippines Gundo Weiler said the rise in the number of cases only means the health department is proactively testing for Zika.
"[More testing] will allow better understanding and a more measured response to the situation," he added. (READ: What DOH is doing to deal with Zika, other public health threats)
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has enough reagents to carry out tests for over 1,000 suspected cases, but the health department is buying 8,000 more test kits.
Each test kit is worth P6,000 ($125.21)*. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P47.92
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.