What is Zika virus?
The Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya. Once bitten, the person will experience mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain that normally last for 2 to 7 days. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947. The virus identified came from rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. In 1952, Zika virus was subsequently identified in humans in parts of Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indigenous cases of Zika virus infection were reported from 23 countries or territories worldwide within the past two months: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, Thailand and Venezuela. As of February 3, 2016, 11 more countries were added in the list: Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Jamaica, Maldives, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Virgin Islands.
As its number of cases increases, so as the following reports of the unusual cases of microcephaly among newborns in several Brazilian states. On November 24, 2015, health authorities of French Polynesia were alarmed by the increasing number of reported microcephaly cases. From an average of one per year, the numbers suddenly spiked to 17 reports in just a year. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency over the spread of the Zika virus in Latin America and its suspected link to the surge of babies born with microcephaly. Microcephaly is the destruction of the cerebral structure of an infant that makes it significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex.
Since the Zika virus continues to spread in different countries, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) issued an epidemiological update on the Zika virus infection. PAHO and WHO highly recommended its member states to establish and maintain the capacity to detect and confirm Zika virus cases, prepare healthcare facilities to respond to a possible increase demand of specialized care for neurological syndromes, as well to strengthen antenatal care.  WHO also urged Southeast Asian countries to take precautions against the Zika virus, especially now that the Zika virus is found in several countries.
Last February 2, 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) assured the public that the Philippines is still free from the continuous widespread of the Zika virus infection. In a press briefing, Health Secretary Janette Garin said the government remained vigilant against the disease since the mosquito carrying the virus was present in the country.  "Worldwide, the local transmission of the Zika virus within the last nine months had been confirmed in 28 countries, mostly in Latin America. The Philippines is not on this list. However, the vector Aedes aegypti mosquito—the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever—is in the Philippines so we are very aggressive in our surveillance and information dissemination," Garin said.  Currently, there is no available medicine and vaccine to treat and prevent the Zika virus. However, the symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest, and plenty of water. If symptoms continue to occur after 2 days, consultation in the nearest health facility to seek medical advice is recommended.  The common symptoms of Zika virus are as follows:
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
 Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization. Regional Office for the Americas. Neurological syndrome, congenital malformations, and Zika virus infection – Epidemiological Update (17 January 2016) [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2015 Jan 18]. Available from: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&Itemid=&gid=32879&lang=en.
[2, 3] Calleja, N., Santos, G. (2016, February 3). DOH says PH still free of Zika virus. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/760956/doh-says-ph-still-free-of-zika-virus.
 Department of Health. (2016, February 2). DOH: "4S" key against Zika virus and other mosquito-borne disease. Press Release. Retrieved from http://www.doh.gov.ph/node/4410