KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia has confirmed its first case of the Zika virus in a pregnant 27-year-old woman, Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Wednesday. Zika infections in pregnant women have been shown to cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the head and brain are undersized, besides other brain abnormalities.
“The woman is expecting her first child and is three to four months pregnant,” Malaysia’s health minister, S Subramaniam, said in a statement on the ministry’s Facebook page.
Subramaniam said it was not clear how the pregnant woman had contracted Zika, but she had visited Singapore six months ago and her husband regularly made trips to the city state.
Subramaniam said authorities had inspected a wide area around her home and other places she had recently visited, and they were being fogged with mosquito-killing chemicals.
Malaysia has struggled in recent years to control the spread of dengue fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes.
It has stepped up screening of travellers from abroad, particularly Singapore, and is fogging with insecticides. Members of the public have been urged to eliminate mosquito breeding sites such as stagnant water.
Datuk Seri Dr Subramaniam advised people with spouses who have been infected with the Zika virus to avoid sex or to take precautions to avoid pregnancy for at least six months.
He said the health ministry will hospitalise all pregnant Zika patients who will be treated by specialists.
The health minister also clarified that Malaysia is not spraying in-coming vehicles at the land checkpoints with disinfectant and insect repellent as a safety precaution. Instead, authorities are asking that drivers spray their vehicles before entering Malaysia.
But he acknowledged it's impossible for enforcement officers to ensure that all vehicles are sprayed.
This is Malaysia's third confirmed Zika infection, after one case in Klang, Selangor and another one in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah last week.
Dr Subramaniam said given the close proximity of Johor Bahru to Singapore, the increasing number of Zika cases in Malaysia is to be expected. Aedes control measures have been increased in Johor Bahru and around the house of the patient, he added.