People told to take extra caution to limit spread of Zika virus
Fadli, Rizal Harahap and Panca Nugraha
The Jakarta Post
As the rainy season approaches, the government is working to raise public awareness to anticipate potential outbreaks of the Zika virus in the country, following confirmation on Thursday that an Indonesian woman is being treated in Singapore for the disease.
Health Ministry spokesperson Oscar Primadi said people needed to exercise extra caution during the rainy season when the population of mosquitoes swelled.
“Pay attention to open water areas or containers such as puddles, clothing hangers and used water bottles,” he said.
The rainy season in most parts of Indonesia will begin between August and November this year, Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spokesman Harry Tirto said.
On Wednesday, the Indonesian government issued a travel advisory for Indonesians planning to travel to Singapore due to the worsening Zika outbreak there, with the city-state confirming 151 Zika infections as of Sept. 1.
In its travel advisory, the health ministry recommended Indonesian citizens who visit Singapore protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. The government also advised people to use insect repellent and sleep under a mosquito net or inside a room with a screen mesh on the windows.
“Pregnant women are advised not to travel to an area with Zika. Women are also encouraged to postpone trying for a baby for up to eight weeks after they return from travel in areas where the Zika virus is present,” the travel advisory read.
Furthermore, the government also urged people who had just returned from Zika epidemic areas to go to a healthcare facility for a checkup within 14 days of their arrival in the country. Individuals who experienced possible Zika symptoms such as fever, rashes, joint pain, or red eyes should schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Zika poses an enormous threat to pregnant women as it can harm unborn children. The World Health Organization has declared an international emergency over the virus, which has been linked to microcephaly — a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. The virus is now present in many Latin American countries.
Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir confirmed that an Indonesian woman was currently receiving treatment for Zika at a hospital in Singapore.
“One Indonesian citizen has tested positive for Zika, but out of concern for her privacy, I can’t disclose her personal information,” he told journalists.
The information was confirmed by the Health Ministry spokesman, although he was not able to give more details as the ministry still needed to gather more information about the case.
The Health Ministry has emphasized that it has taken drastic measures to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. The government has ordered hundreds of paramedics to be on alert at eight seaports in Batam, Bintan and Karimun in Riau Islands. It has also required people arriving in Indonesia from seaports and airports to fill in health alert cards to ensure early detection of the virus.
“In general, Batam is ready to handle the Zika virus. We don’t need to close down the Batam-Singapore border crossing,” Muhammad Subuh, the Health Ministry’s disease control director general, told The Jakarta Post in Batam.
In Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, thermal scanners have been installed to identify passengers with body temperatures above 38 Celsius and health alert cards are being distributed. Similarly, health authorities at Lombok International Airport in Mataram have also tightened the monitoring of travelers from Singapore. (win)
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