The Malta Independent 26 May 2018, Saturday

Updated: Local tiger mosquito population is not infected with the Zika virus - Chris Fearne

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 15 February 2016, 18:55 Last update: about 3 years ago

While the Zika virus is transmitted via the tiger mosquito, there are no indications that those in Malta are infected, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Chris Fearne said in Parliament.

He delivered a speech in Parliament on the issue.

Mr Fearne said that the World Health Organisation declared an emergency regarding the Zika virus. The Zika virus is mainly transmitted through mosquitoes. He said that tiger mosquitos do transmit the disease, and have been present in Malta for years. "From the information we have today, this mosquito becomes infected when it bites someone who already has the illness"

"As far as we know, in Malta, we do not have any mosquitos infected with Zika. Until now, no vaccine exists," he said.

"Aside from the possibility of transmission through sexual intimacy, or blood transfusions of contaminated blood, Zika cannot pass from one person to another".

The Health Department has been monitoring the situation through the EU Early Warning Rapid alert System and through communication with the World Health Organisation, as well as other organisations.

According to the aforementioned centres, Mr Fearne explained, the risk of Zika infection transmission is low in EU countries during Winter. The risk can rise as temperatures rise, he said.

The most common symptoms are fever, a rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain.

He explained that ties between the virus and malformation of newborns through infected mothers are increasing. "There are also reports of neurological complications in rare cases".

A helpline has been set up for those who suspect that they have contracted the virus - 21324086.

"Information related to the Zika virus has also been sent to doctors. Lectures are also being organised for medical staff".

On January 29 the Health Department ordered kits. These kits will allow for tests on persons suspected to have the virus.

He again reiterated that the Man who was affected by Zika had been infected while abroad in the Pacific. He said that the Health Department took all the necessary precautions to isolate the person. This person is now ok and no longer in isolation, he said. Two weeks have past since the patient showed symptoms, he said

Since then, a number of other people were tested after exhibiting symptoms upon their return to Malta, however none of them tested positive for the virus, Mr Fearne told Parliament.

The Health Department has also issued recommendations. The first is that anyone travelling to an affected country must take precautions against mosquitoes.

"Pregnant women should avoid travelling to infected countries due to risks of complications", he said, and persons with low immunity should seek medical advice prior to travelling to infected countries.

"Those who decide to engage in sexual activity in infected countries should use protection".

In addition, those returning from infected countries should, if they develop symptoms within two weeks of their return, call the helpline.

An interministerial working group last week was also set up to monitor the situation. 

PN MP Claudette Buttigieg highlighted the need for people to avoid mosquitoes and standing water, where tiger mosquitoes breed. She also queried whether there were plans to spray roads and asked if travellers to infected destinations would be given specific advice.

A barrage of questions from a number of MPs regarding the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil were also asked.

In response, he said that spraying would only happen if a large presence of infected mosquitoes occurs. He said that spraying also has its own problems.

He reiterated that the risk of an infected mosquito coming to Malta is low as no direct flights to infected countries exist. The majority of people being stung by infected mosquitoes do not suffer major consequences, he explained. He urged people not to leave standing water in containers or pots. 

Prisoner with H1N1 improving

Turning to the H1N1 outbreak in prison, following a question asked by PL Whip Godfrey Farrugia, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said that the inmate who had contracted the flu was treated and is improving. He said there have not been any new flu cases.


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