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Maldives intensifies Zika screening

Mohamed Visham
03 October 2016, MVT 12:51
IGMH staff pictured in the new cardiac centre at the state run hospital. MIHAARU FILE PHOTO/NISHAN ALI
Mohamed Visham
03 October 2016, MVT 12:51

Maldives has intensified screening for the Zika virus, mandating the state run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) to test patients with fever for the mosquito born disease.

Zika causes only mild symptoms in most, including fever, sore eyes and a rash.

But pregnant women with the mosquito-borne virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly — a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads.

IGMH in a statement said the move is designed to uncover the extent of the Zika virus in the Maldives as part of the ongoing surveillance efforts by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The latest move by local health authorities comes in the wake of an admission that three tourists had tested positive for the virus after they left the Maldives earlier this year.

According to HPA, the tourists each from a different country — Germany, Spain and Finland had tested positive for the virus after holidaying in the Maldives this year.

It was however, unclear that the tourists had contracted the mosquito-borne virus from the Maldives.

There is no cure or vaccine for the virus, which has infected more than 1.5 million people in nearly 70 countries since last year, according to WHO, with Brazil the hardest hit.

While Zika has been present in Southeast Asia for years, there has been an uptick in the number of recorded cases in the region in recent months.

Thai health authorities on Friday said microcephaly in two babies was caused by the Zika virus, in what is believed to be Southeast Asia’s first confirmed cases linking the sickness and the birth defect.

Scientists warned this month that the world should prepare for a “global epidemic” of microcephaly asZika takes root in new countries.

US on Friday had issued a Zika related travel advisory urging caution for its citizens when traveling to the archipelago.

Maldives government has taken measures to protect the tourism dependent nation from the virus and had launched special programs throughout the archipelago to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

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