Monday, October 31, 2016

Brunei - Zika virus travel advisory: MoH clarifies

THE Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday issued a clarification on the Zika virus travel advisory issued by the United States of America regarding travel to Southeast Asia, including Brunei Darussalam.

The Zika virus surveillance programme covering both government and private healthcare facilities routinely screens all suspected cases based on current World Health Organization (WHO) definitions and guidelines. Laboratory samples are also collected for confirmatory testing.

No cases of Zika virus disease have been detected in Brunei Darussalam, the MoH said in a statement.

Despite this, the MoH continues to remain vigilant and has developed the ‘Ministry of Health Preparedness Plan for the Prevention and Control of Zika Virus Disease’ to prepare for eventualities. In addition, all national preventive activities and capacity building to prevent, detect and control disease are overseen by the Multisectoral Task Force for the Prevention and Control of Zika Virus Disease comprising relevant government agencies including the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Development, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Disaster Management Centre, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry of Health.

Members of the public are advised not to panic in response to the travel advisory from the US.

“Although Brunei is currently Zika-free, as a country, we need to maintain a heightened state of preparedness,” the MoH stated, adding that the most effective preventive measure is by eradication of mosquito breeding sites.

“Environmental sanitation is important and we must make sure that we empty, clean and cover containers that can hold even small amounts of water, such as plastic containers, buckets, flower pots and tyres. Ensure also that all drains are clean, functioning properly and not blocked. All rubbish must be disposed of properly,” it added.

In addition to eradication of breeding sites through environmental sanitation, the people can also take measures to prevent ourselves being bitten by mosquitoes. These include wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing that covers the skin, using mosquito repellents, and avoiding being outside from in the early morning and late evening (unless necessary).

In line with WHO guidance, the MoH does not advise on any travel or trade restrictions with the affected countries, or any screening or isolation of travelers at points of entry.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas.

Also, if a pregnant woman or her spouse has recently travelled to a Zika-affected country, both partners should adopt safer sexual practices or abstinence for the entire pregnancy.

Individuals who have visited affected countries or are travelling from the affected countries, who subsequently develop symptoms such as fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headaches and muscle aches within two weeks of entry into Brunei Darussalam should be assessed at the nearest health facility.

The MoH and its relevant partner agencies will continue to monitor evolving events in collaboration with the WHO, and its counterparts within Asean.

“We continue to remain vigilant and prepared and call upon all stakeholders including members of the public to participate fully in the national effort to prevent and control Zika virus infection through ensuring environmental sanitation,” the MoH said.

For further information on the Zika virus and mosquito-borne diseases, the public can visit the Ministry of Health website at or call Darussalam line 123.

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