Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine Tran Dac Phu speaks at a the meeting on March 30 (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam’s health authorities are confident that they have plans in place to cope with all possible scenarios of a Zika virus epidemic, following the discovery of the first two patients who have contracted the virus, one of whom is a pregnant woman.

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency on April 5, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said that warning alerts for the entire health care system had been raised more than one week ago, with monitoring and preventive measures strengthened. After the detection of the first infection cases, all localities have been required to elevate warning level to Level Two, which requires taking a wide range of measures from the formation of a local steering committee to preparations to deal with outbreaks in terms of equipment, personnel and medicine.

He said the ministry also instructed its specialised agencies and localities to carry out necessary measures to minimise the risk of Zika virus outbreak, given that the disease is highly infectious through striped mosquitoes, which are common in Vietnam.

For Khanh Hoa province and HCM City where the two first infections of Zika virus were detected, the medical sector is coordinating with local authorities to zone off an area within a radius of 200m from the residence of the infected patient for epidemiological inspection and control.

Regarding the pregnant patient in Ho Chi Minh City, Deputy Minister Long said the ministry has instructed specialized units to keep close eye on her and the fetus.

He added that there is no need to be overanxious about microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads, citing reports that in Brazil, only 900 out of 6,000 cases of microcephaly were suspected of link to Zika virus. Research is still underway to see whether there is solid evidence on the link.

The deputy minister advised pregnant women to go to health facilities if they develop symptoms of fever, rash and conjunctivitis in the first three months of pregnancy and confirmed that all provincial-level health centres are qualified for the purpose.-VNA