Myanmar confirms pregnant woman infected with Zika virus

Doctors say 17 main hospitals across Myanmar were monitoring birth defects in babies in cooperation with WHO.

Malaysia on high alert over Zika case in Singapore
An edes aegypti mosquito is seen inside a test tube as part of a research on preventing the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases at a control and prevention center in Guadalupe, neighbouring Monterrey, Mexico, March 8, 2016. Reuters

Myanmar confirmed the first case of a Zika virus infected patient on Thursday, state-owned Myanmar TV (MRTV) said. A pregnant foreign woman has been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus in Yangon, the largest city of Mynamar.

"A foreign woman in Yangon who is pregnant was found to have contracted Zika virus and further examination is being carried out," MRTV reported. However, it did not provide any further details.

Myint Kyaw, the Information Ministry spokesman, said it was the first confirmed Zika case in Myanmar. In September, two Myanmar citizens, one living in Singapore and one in Thailand, were identified as infected with the virus.

Dr. Nyan Win Myint, an official of Myanmar's Ministry of Health, said screening measures had been stepped up at the international airports earlier this month.

"We've been conducting extensive awareness campaigns and anti-mosquito measures across the country by coordinating and cooperating with other ministries and the media. We're doing this together with anti-dengue measures," he told Reuters.

Myint added that 17 main hospitals across Myanmar were monitoring birth defects in babies. This entire process was being done in cooperation with the World Health Organization. But, he said that no evidence of the birth of Zika-affected babies had been reported by then.

Zika was first identified in Uganda in 1947 and it has spread to some 60 countries since its outbreak. The virus can cause birth defects and can also result in microcephaly in which the baby's head is smaller than expected. While in adults, it can cause neurological disorders.

More than 1,900 cases of microcephaly were reported in Brazil which is hardest hit so far. Among the Southeast Asian countries, Singapore and Thailand are the most Zika affected countries with a total of about 800 cases, including dozens of pregnant women.

The World Health Organisation said people infected with Zika can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms of Zika normally last for two to seven days.

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection yet. Companies and scientists are working to develop a safe and effective vaccine for the virus.