Zika Virus Risk: Consulate Warns Pregnant Burmese Women to Avoid Chiang Mai

By Nyein Nyein 7 September 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Burmese Consulate in Chiang Mai has warned pregnant Burmese women to temporarily avoid visiting the northern Thai province after a pregnant migrant woman was infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus this week.

On Monday, the Zika virus was detected in two pregnant women in Chiang Mai Province’s San Sai District. One is a 28-year-old Burmese migrant, eight months into her pregnancy, according to the Chiang Mai Public Health Centre.

As of Monday, 11 Zika cases have been reported in Chiang Mai Province, according to The Bangkok Post—the highest concentration in Thailand, where known cases have reached a total of 20 across four provinces: Chiang Mai, Phetchabun, Bueng Kan and Chanthaburi. But the Thai Ministry of Public Health says the situation remains under control.

The symptoms of Zika infection are generally mild, although in pregnant women it can cause brain malformations and other defects in unborn children. There are no vaccines or specific treatments.

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 South and North America and to some Pacific islands. It has since been detected in Southeast Asia, Singapore and Thailand.

The Burmese Consulate’s statement issued on Wednesday read, “Pregnant women and those planning to have a baby should temporarily suspend trips to Chiang Mai.”

Burmese Consular General U Kaung San Lwin told the Irrawaddy the warning was intended for Burmese migrants living in Thailand as well as Burmese tourists.

He said the Burmese patient was undergoing treatment at the Public Health Center’s emergency unit in San Sai. The Consulate intends to erect warning signs about the Zika virus in Burmese migrant communities in Chiang Mai—including in the vicinity of the Burmese Wat Sai Moon monastery—and publish posts on Facebook.

He added that the Consulate was ready to support Burmese infected with the Zika virus, and encouraged all Burmese migrants to contact the Consulate immediately if symptoms appear.

“I would like to warn the migrants to avoid being bitten by misquotes, to be aware of the symptoms and to see a doctor if you find yourself feeling any of the symptoms […] and to contact us,” he said.

Some migrant communities have already been informed about the risks of Zika infection by an awareness campaign begun by Thai authorities last month.

Burmese migrant Ma Khin Phone, who belongs to a workers’ association, said the migrants she knew of—particularly pregnant women—were concerned about the disease.

“When we conduct outreach among migrant communities, we advise them to scrupulously avoid mosquito bites and to use mosquito nets,” she said.