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Ministry Steps Up Zika Monitoring

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is stepping up monitoring efforts at the two access points in Johor in response to news that a Malaysian woman was found to be infected with the Zika virus in Singapore.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah assured the public that the health ministries of both countries are in constant communication on the latest updates in the case to make sure that preventive measures and control can be taken effectively.

Paramedics are being stationed at both entrances in Johor to take immediate action if any visitors coming from Singapore show signs of the Zika infection.

“Considering that Malaysia also has Zika-carrying vectors – the Aedes mosquitoes – there is a possibility that cases of Zika could happen here if Malaysians had visited Zika-affected countries without taking the necessary preventive measures,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Until August, more than two million visitors to Malaysia coming from 155 countries that reported Zika cases have been screened, he said. None so far have been suspected of contracting the virus.

“Visitors from the affected countries were also given a Health Alert Card as a guide on what they should do if they exhibit symptoms of Zika infection after returning from those countries,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

Between June 2015 and Aug 26, 2016, all 784 blood samples from patients suspected to have contracted the disease were tested and results were negative for Zika, he added.

He reminded the public that those infected with the Zika virus may show symptoms which include fever, body aches, chills, rashes and conjunctivitis (red eye).

“However, 80% of Zika patients do not show these signs. What is more worrying is that patients carrying the Zika virus inside their body can spread it to others if they are bitten by Aedes mosquitoes,” he said.

He advised the public to take this issue seriously and to ensure that their surroundings do not become breeding grounds for the mosquito.

He urged the public, especially those visiting Singapore’s Aljunied Crescent, to protect themselves by wearing long-sleeved and bright-coloured clothing, and use insect repellent.

Dr Noor Hisham also advised those who returned from Zika-affected countries to practise safe sex for at least eight weeks to prevent cases of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

“Those with Zika symptoms should seek treatment immediately,” he urged.

Singapore authorities confirmed that the 47-year-old Malaysian woman had not travelled to any Zika-affected countries recently, making it likely that she contracted the virus locally.

It is not known whether she had returned to Malaysia recently or had been visited by any relatives here.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Singapore authorities are conducting contact-tracing on the woman to find out who she had come in contact with since contracting the virus.

In George Town, Penang Health Department director Datuk Dr M. Sukumar said preventive measures against the Zika virus will be carried out at the Penang International Airport.

He said the department would distribute health alert cards there and carry out thermo-scanning to detect passengers with signs of fever.

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