• An official from the Sathorn District Office sprays chemicals to get rid of mosquitoes at the Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep yesterday. About 200 people have been infected by the Zika virus in Thailand this year, with many infections in Ba

Health Ministry to work with Asean to fight spread of virus

national September 14, 2016 01:00

By PUANGCHOMPOO PRASERT,

THANAPAT THONGPAIWAN

THE NATION

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Red cross sets up screening measures for blood donors to protect supply.



PUBLIC HEALTH Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn will hold a teleconference with his Asean counterparts on the Zika virus concerns next week to improve regional cross-border cooperation.
Measures to be discussed will focus on technical assistance on verification of cases and readiness to cope with the spread of the virus.
Thailand has recorded 200 Zika cases since the start of the year, according to Dr Suwanchai Wattanayingcharernchai, deputy permanent secretary for public health, who said the country’s situation had stabilised over the past three weeks with new cases averaging 20 per week.
Following a teleconference with Thai public health officials nationwide, he said cases of Zika infections had appeared mostly in Bungkarn, Chantraburi, Petchabun and Chiang Mai while most of the 200 affected patients had recovered after one week.
Dr Opas Kankawinpong, deputy director-general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, said Asean public health ministers would participate in next week’s teleconference to update each other on the situation and work together to boost each country’s ability to tackle the Zika virus.
Zika has been found in other Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines for some time. 
Regarding the 30 reported cases of Zika virus infections in Bangkok, he said the public should not worry as patients were being closely monitored during a 28-day period and there had been no new cases detected.
Health authorities have focused on eradicating sources of mosquitoes, which also carry the more-deadly dengue fever virus. Dengue fever has claimed 31 lives in 38,000 infection cases since the start of the year.
Zika is also a particular threat to pregnant women as their unborn babies could be affected by the virus, resulting in microcephaly, an abnormal smallness of the head. So far, the public health ministry has reported 33 cases of Zika infections in pregnant women, including eight who gave birth to healthy babies. 
In general, the public is urged to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. If they show signs of fever and other symptoms, they are advised to contact their local health authorities.
Meanwhile, the Thai Red Cross Society is implementing new measures to screen blood donors to prevent a Zika virus outbreak, a source at the society’s office in Bangkok said yesterday. 
Red Cross officials will interview potential blood donors in detail and ask if they have visited a country that has had cases of Zika transmission and anyone who has will have to wait 28 days before making a blood donation, The Nation was told yesterday. 
The ban also covers people diagnosed with Zika or those displaying Zika-like symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, headache or red eyes, the source said. 
Potential blood donors who display such symptoms will only be able to give blood 28 days after the symptoms have completely cleared. 
People who have had intercourse or been in close contact with people diagnosed with the disease, displaying the symptoms or visited countries that have had documented cases of Zika transmission will also have to wait 28 days from their last date of contact. 
The agency requires donors to contact the Red Cross if they develop Zika-like symptoms within 14 days of their donation. Patients also should immediately alert the National Blood Centre, its regional offices or blood donation service points at hospitals.
The measures are based on Red Cross Society’s policy announcement in February, which followed the World Health Organisation’s interim guidelines to maintain a safe and adequate blood supply during Zika virus outbreaks.

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