DOH confirms 6 new Zika cases in the country; virus found in Iloilo, Cebu, and Laguna

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(File photo) The Department of Health (DOH) confirms six more Zika cases in the country--bringing the country's total Zika cases to nine. The World Health Organization (WHO) assures its full support in fighting the spread of the infection.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Department of Health (DOH) said six more cases of Zika were reported this month. This brings the total number of Zika cases in the country to nine--with the virus spreading across three provinces.  

Seven patients are from Iloilo City, one from Cebu City, and one from Laguna province. The ages of the patients range from 9 to 49 years old.

Health Spokesperson Eric Tayag said all these patients are expected to recover soon.

Early this month, the DOH reported the first locally transmitted Zika infection for the year-- a 45 year old woman from Iloilo. Two more cases were later reported, both from the same household as the index case. Tayag said the additional four cases in Iloilo live 10 kilometers away from the previously reported cases.

The DOH expects more infections to be recorded in the coming days.

Also read: DOH investigating origin of Zika virus in the Philippines

Tayag explained that the aedes aegypti mosquito - the carrier of Zika virus - is found throughout the country. Tayag however clarified, there is no active transmission of the Zika virus in the country--an "active transmission" means infection is widespread and the mode of transmission is unclear.

All reported cases of Zika so far were infected through mosquito bites. The virus can also be transmitted sexually.

"Halimbawa may kaso dito, 'di ba 'yung unang tatlo, the same household yun. Hindi masabing active transmission. Parehong household eh. Ngayon, more than 10 kilometers, merong kaso, pero alam naming kagat din ng lamok yun. Eh isa isa. So hindi rin masabing active, kasi isa lang eh," Tayag explained.

[Translation: For example, the case of the first three patients came from the same household. We can't say it's active transmission as it's the same household. Now, there are cases more than 10 kilometers away but we know it's from mosquito bites. We can't say it's active because these are isolated cases.]

Tayag said a national Zika action plan is in the works where the DOH is intensifying the capability of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for testing.

The DOH released ₱48M to buy 8,000 Zika testing kits. Only those who show Zika symptoms -- rashes, red eyes, joint pains and fever-- will be tested for the virus.

Related: DOH rolls out measures against Zika virus

Tayag said pregnant women should consult with their doctors to ensure a safe pregnancy. The Zika virus is linked with birth defects which includes microcephaly--which shrinks the unborn's head and brain, leading to developmental disorders.

"Ang mga buntis na gusto magpa-test-- sa prenatal visit ninyo magtanong kayo sa doctor kung kailangan ba ninyong magpa-test. Otherwise, use safe insect repellents at sa gayon mabawasan ang paglagay sa panganib," advised Tayag.

[Translation: Pregnant women who want to get tested should ask their doctors during their prenatal visit if they really need to get tested. Otherwise, use safe insect repellents in order to reduce the risk of getting infected.]

Watch: Preventing Zika virus spread

WHO: Zika in PH not a surprise

The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile assured the DOH of its full support in preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

WHO Country Representative Dr. Gundo Weiler said there are now 19 out of 37 countries in the Western Pacific Region found with Zika virus. Weiler said it was only a matter of time before cases were found in the Philippines.

"The fact that we see Zika in the Philippines and we detect more is not a surprise. We know there is a competent vector in the country, we know there is a lot of travel. We were assuming there is a likelihood Zika will appear in the country and spread to a certain extent," said Weiler.

Weiler commended the proactive testing of the DOH against Zika. He said the increase in the number of cases reflects the efforts of the DOH to crackdown on the virus. He said this is a welcome development at a time when countries are on alert against the spread of Zika.

"We will see more Zika being picked up so that, per se, is a development which is welcome because we will understand better in the future the circulation of the Zika in the country is," Weiler said.

Watch: Zika virus 101