First Zika case confirmed in Yangon
HEALTH officials have stepped up their warnings to the public to avoid mosquitoes following the confirmation that a pregnant woman was found to be infected with the Zika virus. The 32-year-old foreigner, whose name and nationality have not been divulged owing to patient confidentiality, is receiving treatment at home.
The Ministry of Health and Sports said the woman had been confirmed as infected following laboratory tests on October 27. She has lived in Myanmar with her husband for two years, and was returning from overseas when she felt unwell and reported her symptoms to the health authorities. The health department has asked her not to leave home for two weeks.
“She has accepted our suggestions and her cooperation is excellent,” said Dr Aung Thu, an official of the Department of Public Health, adding that 30 other travellers tested were all found to be negative.
The pregnant patient is the first case to be confirmed in Myanmar, which has now informed the World Health Organization. The woman’s husband tested negative for the virus, according to Dr Soe Lwin Nyein, director general of the Department of Public Health.
“They contacted us first and now they are receiving medical treatments,” he said.
The health ministry has renewed its warnings to the public to help control the spread of the disease. Marriage couples living in Yangon have been advised to avoid pregnancy for the next six months.
“Married couples where one person is infected with zika should avoid sex and pregnancy,” said Dr Soe Lwin Nyein.
Zika is a flu-like virus spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito that can result in serious complications in the case of pregnant women, whose babies could suffer microcephaly, where the fetus’ brain does not fully develop, and the rare paralysis-inducing auto-immune disorder Guillian-Barré Syndrome.
It can also be sexually transmitted, but there are no reports indicating that the disease can be spread by breastfeeding, a February symposium on the Zika virus was told.
Dr Than Htun Aung, deputy director general of the Department of Public Health, said the department was accelerating its mosquito control and surveillance programs.
“Public cooperation is very important. The best way to prevent Zika is to fight mosquitoes,” he said, urging members of the public to avoid being bitten.
The virus produces symptoms in one in five sufferers, with the symptoms typically beginning two to seven days after infection. Symptoms include muscle pains, fever, headache, pain behind the eyes and vomiting.
“It’s like the flu for most people, but pregnant women should be aware of the risk of microcephaly,” said Dr Aung Thu. The Aedes aegypti mosquito also carries dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and the West Nile virus.
The health ministry has been implementing disease control and surveillance measures since the WHO declared Zika to be an international public health emergency last February.
Currently, the Department of Public Health is carrying out 24-hour screenings for Zika at airports, Dr Thet Khaing Win, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Sports, said at an October 28 press conference in Nay Pyi Taw.
He added that the ministry has stepped up its prevention efforts, and the public should not be anxious.
The Vietnamese football team, which will play Myanmar in the Suzuki Cup, will be tested for the Zika virus when they arrive at Yangon International Airport, said Dr Thet Khine Win, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and Sports, on October 28.
Zika has also been detected in Vietnam, he said.
“We will have a public health group at the airport. The team will be examined whether they have symptoms or not,” he said.
However, a positive test would not stop the team playing, he said. “If Zika is found, we will make further detailed analyses. They will not lose their chance to play here.”
“Testing for Zika at the airport has been decided at the national level. So far, our players have not received any special warning because Vietnam is in the same group as us,” said U Phone Paing Zaw, CEO of Myanmar Football Federation.
A mosquito sits on a man’s leg in Yangon on October 30. On October 28, the health ministry confirmed that a pregnant foreign woman has been diagnosed with the country’s first case of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects.
MYINT KAY THI