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Zika in Malaysia: 9 things you should know about the virus (UPDATED)

Zika in Malaysia: 9 things you should know about the virus (UPDATED)
Zika is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same type that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. - File Photo
It's official; Zika has entered Malaysia.

The Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed the first positive case of Zika in the country, involving a woman from Taman Botanik in Klang, Selangor, who was infected with the virus.

She is reported to be in stable condition at Sungai Buloh Hospital after being admitted a week after she returned from a short trip to Singapore, last month.


In Malaysia, health officials are on alert and has intensified efforts to prevent the wide outbreak that began in Brazil last year and has slowly made its way to many countries in the Southeast Asian countries including Singapore and Thailand.
Here's what you need to know:


1) How do people become infected?

Zika is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes mosquito, the same type that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.


2) What are the symptoms of Zika infection?

People infected with Zika may experience a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain as well as fatigue that can last for two to seven days.

But as many as 80 percent of people infected never develop symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same type of mosquito.


3) How do you treat Zika?

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection.

Scientists and medical companies are developing a protected and effective vaccine for Zika, but the World Health Organization (WHO) had said early in 2016 that it would take at least, 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials of potential preventative shots.

A vaccine is not expected to be ready for widespread use for at least two or three years.
The Reuters reported that the U.S. government researchers said they started their first clinical trial of a Zika vaccine.


4) How precarious is it?

Infected with the Zika virus, pregnant women can cause birth defect microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities in babies.

The causal relationship has been established, several important questions must still be answered with studies that could take years.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause the birth defect microcephaly in babies, a condition defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

Brazil reports the number of confirmed cases of microcephaly at 1,835 as doctors and Brazilian health officials find that some suspected cases of microcephaly are not the disorder. Suspected ones under investigation had declined to 3,257.

Brazil registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus from February until April 2.

Current research in Brazil indicates the greatest microcephaly risk is associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy, but health officials have warned an impact could be seen in later weeks. Recent studies have shown evidence of Zika in amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal brain tissue.
In Singapore,


5) What are the symptoms of Zika infection?

People infected with Zika may experience a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain as well as fatigue that can last for two to seven days.

Zika in Malaysia

But as many as 80 percent of people infected never develop symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same type of mosquito.


6) How can Zika be controlled?

Efforts to control the widespread of the virus focus on eliminating mosquito breeding sites, establishing well-implemented vector control against Aedes and taking precautions against mosquito bites such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets.

The U.S. and international health officials have advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries where they may be exposed to Zika.


7) How widespread is the outbreak?

Active Zika outbreaks have been reported in at least 58 countries or territories, Brazil has been the country most affected.

In Africa, the virus has been detected in Cape Verde.

In the American continent, 48 countries have been affected by the outbreak. They include Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bonaire, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.

Outbreaks of Zika have been recorded in the Pacific Islands including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia have also reported some cases.

In Asia, Singapore recorded a total of 115 case, as of late Wednesday.

Today, Malaysia’s Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam confirmed that a 58-year-old woman has been tested positive after returning from a short trip to Singapore last month.

She is now receiving treatment at the Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor. 

Zika has also been associated with other neurological disorders, including serious brain and spinal cord infections. The long-term health consequences of Zika infection are ambiguous.

Other uncertainties surround the incubation period of the virus and how Zika interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as dengue.


8) What is the history of the virus?

According to WHO, the virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys and was first identified in people in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania, according to the WHO.

The Zika virus is detected in tropical locales with big-scale mosquito populations.


9) Can Zika be transmitted through sexual contact?

Sexual transmission is "relatively common" and WHO has advised pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing outbreaks of Zika virus. It also advised women living in areas where the virus is being transmitted to delay getting pregnant.

The PAN American Health Organisation (PAHO) stated Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent transmission mechanism. There is no evidence Zika can be transmitted to babies through breast milk.

The WHO has detected Zika cases in Argentina, Chile, France, Italy and New Zealand as likely caused by sexual transmission.

Zika has also been associated with other neurological disorders, including serious brain and spinal cord infections. The long-term health consequences of Zika infection are ambiguous.

Other uncertainties surround the incubation period of the virus and how Zika interacts with other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as dengue.