Malaysia: ‘Zika virus found in Malaysia in 1969’

LOH FOON FONG The Star 2 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: Zika is an existing virus in Malaysia and the steps needed to prevent its infection are similar to those adopted for dengue, said a researcher.

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the Zika virus was isolated from mosquitoes in 1969 in Bentong, Pahang.

However, the origin of the virus discovered in Malaysia was not known since it was not studied to determine its genome, he said.

“It may have come from Africa or could be native to our country and found in our monkeys and mosquitoes,” he added.

Dr Sazaly said they had not seen the virus since 1969 because no one had looked for it.

According to WHO, Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in the rhesus monkeys.

It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Asked why the world had had the virus for so long but the issue of babies born with small brains (microcephaly) only started to emerge recently, Dr Sazaly said the size of an outbreak possibly amplified the otherwise rare event.

“The ways to prevent Zika infection are similar to the methods used in dengue prevention,” he said.

“If we tackle dengue, we tackle Zika too.”

Universiti Malaya research consultant Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit said since the Zika virus was first isolated in 1969 by a team of American scientists, a German traveller was diagnosed with mild Zika infection upon her return to Germany in September 2014, after visiting Sabah.

“It looks like Zika has been around this region for decades and accounts for mild infections,” he said.

There was still no conclusive evidence that Zika virus was the cause of microcephaly although the link was strong, he said.

“If microcephaly is indeed caused by Zika virus, then the present strain in Brazil has possibly undergone changes and become more neurogenic.

“One needs to then study the genes of this strain and compare the findings with past strains,” he said.

Zika virus found here in 1969?
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 1 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: More studies are needed to determine the status of the Zika virus infection, which resembles dengue.

A United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report said a woman from Germany had possibly contracted the disease in Keningau, Sabah, two years ago.

This was revealed by Universiti Malaysia Sabah Entomologist Associate Professor Dr Chua Tock Hing in a talk organised by Jesselton Medical Centre here on Saturday to increase awareness among the public on tackling the rise in dengue cases.

However, Chua said despite the finding, dengue was the main concern in Sabah. “The dengue and Zika viruses are carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Here, dengue is more commonly found.”

But he said there was a need for more studies on the Zika virus.

Chua, an expert on mosquitoes, was referring to a CDC report, “Emerging Infectious Diseases” Volume 21 — Number 5, May 2015.

The report said the 45-year-old woman from Heidelberg, Germany, fell ill six days after her return from a three-week vacation in Malaysia in August 2014.

She developed high fever, rashes, hearing difficulties, swelling and burning sensation on her hands, but recovered after three days of treatment.

The report also cited a study by Marchette NJ, Garcia R and Rudrick A on isolation of Zika virus from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Malaysia, which shows that antibodies against Zika virus were detected in 15 out of 79 people in Peninsular Malaysia and nine out of 50 in Sabah in 1969.

The World Health Organisation recently issued an advisory for pregnant women against travelling to countries with Zika virus cases to prevent birth defects to newborns.

Meanwhile, infectious diseases specialist Dr Timothy William urged the people to seek immediate medical attention to prevent complications due to dengue fever.

“Patients can be closely monitored, especially during critical phases, if they are hospitalised.

Two in 1,000 patients died from complications, such as organ failure and shock (profuse internal bleeding).”

PM wants Health Ministry to take preventive measures on Dengue, Zika virus
BERNAMA New Straits Times 3 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has instructed the Health Ministry to take preventive measures to protect the people from dengue fever and Zika virus.

He also wanted all parties, including government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the people in general, to join hands in combating Aedes mosquito which was the agent of infection for both diseases.

“I am aware of the dengue situation in several areas in the country and also the public concerns regarding the alarming spread of Zika virus in many areas in America,” he said in the latest posting in his blog

Najib said more rigorous monitoring activity was needed as the country’s hot weather was very conducive for the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes.

“We need to prevent and destroy the source or vector of both diseases, that is Aedes mosquitoes. Do not given them any room to breed,” he said.

Following the spread of Zika virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared it as a Public Health Emergency Of International Concern (PHEIC). -- Bernama

Zika virus: Health Ministry to issue guidelines in next 48 hours
SARBAN SINGH The Star 2 Feb 16;

SEREMBAN: The Health Ministry will issue a comprehensive set of guidelines in the next 48 hours on plans to combat the mosquito borne Zika virus following a declaration by the World Health Organisation that it has become an international public health emergency.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam said in the meantime Malaysians planning to visit South America should postpone travel plans.

"We are aware of the WHO advisory and are treating the matter seriously," he told reporters after launching the "Watch Your Weight, Watch Your Calories" healthy eating campaign at the south bound R&R along the North-South Expressway here Tuesday.

Subramanian said Malaysia was also at risk as the disease was spread by the aedes mosquito.

"The mosquito is the only vector that spreads Zika.

"So what we need to focus on is eradicating the vector to check the spread of the deadly virus here," he said.

Dr Subramaniam said another challenge faced by the authorities was the fact that carriers of the virus hardly displayed any symptoms.

"There is also no vaccine or known treatment for it," he said.

Dr Subramaniam said his ministry would also advise those returning from South America to be cautious if they experienced lethargy and any weakness in their limbs.

WHO declared the disease an international public health emergency when tens of thousands of babies were born in Brazil with damaged brains. The victims also had unusually small heads. The condition has been linked to, but not proven to be caused by the Zika virus.

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