MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Department of Health (DOH) reported on Monday, September 5, that a woman from Iloilo City recently tested positive for the Zika virus – the first confirmed local transmission in the Philippines.
This is also the 6th laboratory-confirmed case of Zika in the Philippines since 2012, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo told reporters earlier on Monday.
Secretary Paulyn Ubial confirmed later in the afternoon that the patient is 45 years old, married, and is not pregnant.
"This case was most likely due to local transmission since there was no history of travel to any affected country in the past two weeks," she said.
"On August 31, she presented with skin rash and joint pains not accompanied by fever. She was confined in a local hospital where urine and blood were collected. She was subsequently discharged the following day. She tested positive for both specimens," Ubial said.
"Currently, she is at home recovering from her very mild illness. The tests were done at RITM. The Department of Health (DOH) expects additional cases after intensifying its surveillance efforts."
In a press conference in the afternoon, DOH Undersecretary Eric Tayag explained that local transmission means "when you get the infection now, you had no history of travel to an affected country."
The concern with Zika is usually the transmission of the virus from the mother to her baby, Tayag said.
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. (READ: 2.6 billion people in Zika risk areas in Africa, Asia – study)
The disease is strongly suspected of causing birth defects such as microcephaly and other brain deformities in newborns.
However, since the patient in Iloilo is not pregnant, "the only way she can spread it to others is by sexual transmission," Tayag said.
Since Zika virus can also be spread by sexual contact, Bayugo said it is likely that the patient’s husband will also be tested.
The health department has been strictly monitoring overseas Filipino workers and travelers who are coming in from 5 Asian countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Tayag said on Monday that a team of doctors are in Iloilo to look for other possible Zika cases.
He clarified that the DOH does not require isolation or quarantine for suspected cases. "It's just monitoring their signs and symptoms."
"If you have skin rash, joint pains or conjunctivitis, you have to visit a health facility so we can collect the right specimens," Tayag said. – with a report from Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com