The government will strengthen surveillance and screening of travelers coming into Bangladesh’s air, water and land ports coming from the countries affected by the Zika virus.
“The medical teams that already exist in the ports will be strengthened,” said Prof Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman, director of the Centre for Disease Control of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
If needed, blood samples will be collected for tests from the travelers coming from the Zika-affected countries, he told The Daily Star.
The decisions were taken at a technical committee meeting chaired by the DGHS Director General Dr Deen Mohammad Noorul Haque at the Kurmitola General Hospital in Dhaka today.
The move comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus an international public health emergency on Monday.
The WHO South-East Asian region that includes Bangladesh has been urged to strengthen surveillance and take preventive measures against the disease which is linked to thousands of suspected cases of birth defects in Brazil.
Zika virus, first discovered in Uganda in 1947, has common symptoms that are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with the symptoms lasting a week. There is no vaccine for the disease, according to the WHO.
In South America, panic runs high due to the connection of the Zika virus with microcephaly, where a baby is born with a small head and brain.
Bangladesh is not immune to the Zika virus as Aedes Aegypti, which spreads the virus, is also present in Bangladesh and is active vector in spreading dengue.
Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman told The Daily Star that the government decided to take all possible measures, including involving the local government bodies, mostly the city corporations, to destroy mosquitoes.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) have all the facilities to detect Zika virus, he said.
Dr Shamsuzzaman said the meeting decided to create awareness that Zika is not a dangerous virus and that no death has been recorded from Zika until now.
“We urge people, therefore, not to be panicked,” he said.