Burma Reports First Zika Case

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 October 2016

The director general of the health ministry’s department of public health has urged couples in Rangoon not to have babies in the next six months after a pregnant foreigner was found to be infected with the Zika virus in Naypyidaw.

Dr. Soe Lwin Nyein delivered the warning at a press conference about Zika at the Ministry of Health in Naypyidaw on Friday.

“Couples, mainly in Rangoon, don’t get pregnant in the next six months. If you want to get pregnant, consult with health personnel in advance. For those who are pregnant already, avoid mosquito bites,” said the director general.

According to health officials, the mosquito-borne disease is mainly carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Officials have vowed to step up campaigns to suppress this mosquito.

According to Dr. Soe Lwin Nyein, the infected foreigner will be kept under surveillance at her house for two weeks. Both she and her husband are cooperating with the health department.

“This is the foreigner’s third pregnancy. She had two previous miscarriages. But they reported the Zika infection of their own accord and are cooperating with us to not transmit it to others. We, on behalf of our country, appreciate this,” Dr. Soe Lwin Nyein said.

The husband is not infected with Zika. He requested not to disclose their citizenship in line with international health provisions regarding confidentiality.

The pregnant woman recently traveled to a country that is experiencing Zika cases, but many infected people don’t exhibit symptoms, making it difficult to spot the virus during health checks upon arrival at the airports, said the director general.

The ministry has also issued health warnings in Irrawaddy Division townships that the pregnant woman has recently visited. The ministry confirmed the case on Wednesday evening and made an official press release on Thursday.

Dr. Soe Lwin Nyein told pregnant women not to worry too much about this isolated incident and urged members of the public to join in mosquito extermination efforts.

The symptoms of Zika are generally mild, although in pregnant women the virus can cause brain malformations and other defects to the unborn children. There are still no vaccines or specific treatments. The virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites, contact with the blood of infected persons and sexual intercourse.

The Ministry of Health has advised those who come back from abroad not to have babies within four to six months and to use condoms during sexual intercourse.

The virus has been known to occur largely in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. However, a widespread Zika epidemic began in Brazil early last year, spreading to other parts of North and South America and to some Pacific islands. It has since been found in Southeast Asia, Singapore and Thailand.

Burma has become the 73rd country to experience Zika cases and the Health Ministry has reportedly drawn up Zika response plans since its outbreak.