Saturday, 5 March 2016

Zika Virus: Experts push for vector control, effective surveillance

To avert possible local transmission of Zika virus in areas where Aedes mosquitoes are more active, the Federal Government has been urged to institute proper vector control and effective surveillance throughout the Federation.

Making the call during a special presentation on Zika virus in Lagos, the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Prof. Innocent Ujah, said although a serological study carried out on Nigeria showed that 40 per cent of the urban population had neutralising antibodies to Zika virus there is need for an informed policy to combat any disease outbreak.

According to Ujah, even if one person dies of the virus, it is significant to the country as efforts should not be about statistics but human beings.

He stressed the need for government to identify areas of high risk and put vector surveillance measures in place.

“The virus is contracted from Aedes aegypty mosquitoes and there is need for Nigerians to maintain healthy environment, personal hygiene and sleep on insecticide treated mosquito nets. Our environment must be clean to reduce possible transmission that probably would occur,” he added.

“This is a call for us to sanitize our environment and ensure reduction of mosquito breeding sites, by draining or discarding sources of standing water,” Ujah warned.

Corroborating his views, an Entomologist with NIMR, Dr. Sam Awolola, who noted that that there is possible local transmission in areas where Aedes mosquitoes are more active said disease surveillance should also include informing women of reproductive age about the risk of travelling to areas with such outbreak and evaluating those who travelled to such places while pregnant.

“There is a need to be aware of possible local transmission in areas where Aedes mosquitoes are more active.

“Disease surveillance should also include informing women of reproductive age about the risk of travelling to areas with outbreak, and evaluating those who travelled to such places while pregnant.

“It should also include evaluating fetus and infants of women infected while pregnant for possible congenital infections”, he said.

On why it is difficult to eradicate the aedes mosquitoes, Awolola explained that it was due to the fact that they have high resistance to insecticides, adding that, vector control measures such as spraying insecticide, fumigation, and fogging can help reduce the mosquito and possible infection.

“The eggs can hibernate for three months; it can withstand draught and desiccation. It can breed anywhere-indoors and outdoors, and bites daytime and night time, so it is difficult to completely eradicate”, he added.

On his part, Chief Researcher, Consultant and Obstetrician Gynaecologist at NIMR, Dr. Gregory Ohihion, also called for vigilant at the port. “Even though the virus has no cure and no vaccine, the main concern is for pregnant women because of the possible link between the virus and microcephaly. Although this link has not been proved scientifically, it has been proven though that the virus can be transmitted through the placenta to the baby, and during delivery.

“Microcephaly on its own is not a problem if it affects menopausal women or men, because many do not develop symptoms at all. For those who fall ill, they have minor symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pains, red eyes, headache and muscle pain lasting up to a week. But no deaths had been reported”, he added.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on March 3, 2016.

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