Indonesia: Zika detected in Jambi last year, braces for further cases

Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 31 Jan 16;

Indonesia has stepped up measures in anticipation of the possible spread of the Zika virus in the wake of revelations that the mosquito-borne disease had actually been detected in the Sumatra province of Jambi last year.

Jambi Health Agency head Andi Pada confirmed on Saturday that a study held by the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology between December 2014 and April 2015 had found that one local resident had been infected by Zika, a virus suspected to cause a rare birth defect.

The study, she said, had been held during a dengue fever outbreak in the province and had taken more than 100 blood samples from patients admitted to Siloam Hospital in Jambi municipality during the period.

The patient suspected of being infected with Zika, identified as a 27-year-old male, had initially visited the hospital complaining of high fever, but his initial blood test came back negative for dengue fever.

“After thorough examination, it turned out that the man had contracted the Zika virus,” Andi explained.

To prevent the possible spread of Zika, Andi said her agency had been intensively cooperating with local schools to maintain cleanliness and eliminate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the insect that transmits the virus, from within the school environment.

“We must prevent the spread of the virus, particularly among children,” she said.

Health authorities are increasingly concerned about the spread of the dengue-like Zika virus since scientists in northeastern Brazil witnessed a surge in cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that sees babies born with unusually small heads. The virus can affect motor skills and cause mental retardation.

Brazilian health officials have since linked Zika to the microcephaly cases, with the country recording nearly 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly since October last year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

The WHO also reported that the disease’s rapid spread was due to a lack of immunity among the population and the prevalence of active Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also transmit chikungunya and dengue fever.

Earlier this week, the Health Ministry claimed that there was no reason to panic over the possible spread of Zika, saying that no infections had been reported in the country, or even in the ASEAN region.

On Friday, however, Eijkman researchers announced that they had in fact detected the country’s first known Zika suspect in Jambi during their research last year.

A researcher from Eijkman’s emerging virus unit, Frilasita Yudhaputri, said there was reason to believe that the virus has been spreading in Jambi, as the suspect had never in his entire life left the province.

“We have already reported the finding to the Health Ministry via the technology, research and higher education minister in September 2015,” Frilasita said, adding that cases of the virus had probably gone undetected, with sufferers wrongly diagnosed with dengue fever.

Zika and dengue fever show similar early symptoms, such as fever, rashes and joint pain. However, the clinical manifestation of Zika is not as severe as dengue fever, which can lead to shock and death.

Ratna Budi Hapsari, the head of the emerging infectious diseases sub-directorate at the Health Ministry, meanwhile, said that the ministry’s long-term data showed that Zika infections occurred only very rarely in Indonesia.

“We have never declared an emergency [relating to the virus]. Most Zika patients don’t even need to be hospitalized,” Ratna said.

Jambi preparing for spread of Zika virus
Jon Afrizal, 30 Jan 16;

A doctor draw blood from Luana, who was born with microcephaly, at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife, Brazil, Thursday. Brazilian officials still say they believe there's a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly and strongly suspect the Zika virus, which first appeared in the country last year, is to blame. The concern is strong enough that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month warned pregnant women to reconsider visits to areas where Zika is present. (AP/Felipe Dana)
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The Jambi Health Agency is anticipating the possible spread of the Zika virus in the province in the wake of an outbreak of the disease in a number of Latin American countries, an official says.

“We have instructed all heads of regency and city health agencies to carry out prevention efforts,” Jambi Health Agency head Andi Pada told in Jambi on Saturday.

The Zika virus had been detected in Jambi during an outbreak of dengue fever that hit the province from December 2014 to April 2015, said Eijkman Biological Molecular Institute deputy director Herawati Sudoyo as reported by on Friday.

Andi confirmed that the Eijkman Biological Molecular Institute had carried out research on those afflicted with dengue fever in the province from 2014 to 2015.

After taking patients’ blood samples, he said, the institute noticed that many of the samples were not infected by dengue fever virus, and carried out further research into the samples. It was subsequently realized that one of the samples was infected by the Zika virus.

The main effort of the prevention efforts was to prevent the reproduction of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit dengue fever and the Zika virus to humans, Andi said. “We’re cooperating with schools to clean up the environment and eliminate the nests of the mosquitoes,” he explained.

The Zika virus was first discovered in Africa in 1947, but until last year, when it was found in Brazil, it had never been a threat in the Western Hemisphere.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fevers, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week, but there is mounting evidence from Brazil that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly. (bbn)

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