Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City will spray for mosquitoes in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in thousands of infants in Brazil.
Doctor Nguyen Van Sau, director of HCMC International Health Quarantine Center, said the center will conduct the spraying on Thursday night, when the airport is least crowded.
The airport will continue to measure the body temperatures of arrivals and quarantine suspicious cases if necessary. So far, no cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been reported in Vietnam.
During a meeting held on January 29, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that Zika poses a possible threat to Vietnam since the virus’ main vector (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) is prominent throughout Vietnam. It is also known for carrying dengue, yellow fever and the Chikungunya virus.
Vietnam has not developed community immunity against the virus, which has been described as spreading “explosively” throughout the Americas.
Thus Long said one infected case in Vietnam could quickly spread to the wider population.
Vietnam's health officials have also recommended its people, especially pregnant women, to avoid traveling to Americas and infected countries at the present.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared the Zika virus a global health emergency on Monday and urged governments to control mosquito populations and limit exposure to at-risk individuals (i.e. pregnant women).
No vaccine or treatment is currently available. The symptoms range from mild discomfort to those that closely mirror dengue fever, making it hard for women to know if they have been infected during pregnancy.
Zika was first detected in Africa in 1947 when it was considered a relatively mild disease until the current outbreak started in Brazil in May 2015.
The virus has since spread to 31 countries and territories, with Thailand reporting the first case and the US confirming the first sexually transmitted patient Tuesday. The WHO estimates 3-4 million people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in the next year.
CNN reported that the number of suspected cases of microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which infants are born with smaller craniums and brains, increased to 4,180 as of January 31. At least 51 of those cases have died.