Suspected Zika cases in Malaysia on the rise, Health Minister says now over 40

Suspected Zika cases in Malaysia on the rise, Health Minister says now over 40
A traveller walks past travel advisory on the Zika virus infection in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016. Photo: AP
Published: 5:15 PM, September 12, 2016
Updated: 5:22 PM, September 12, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry suspects the number of Zika infections in the country is growing.

Its minister Dr S Subramaniam said the number of confirmed incidents remains at four, but have revised their current estimates of suspected cases from 30 to over 40.

“We will fully run the necessary test for each case, and once any of it is confirmed, we will announce it,” he told reporters after launching a gallery at MIC headquarters here on Monday (Sept 12) to commemorate the party’s 70th anniversary.

“It was (announced as) 30 the other day, but now it is more than 40,” he added.

Dr Subramaniam added that a protocol is also being formulated for blood banks to prevent the spread of the Zika virus through transfusions.

The minister pointed out that transmission of the virus via contaminated blood was currently the highest risk.

He also said the ministry was unable to confirm or deny claims that a third of Malaysians were immune to the virus, but noted that four out of every five people infected never display symptoms.

Acknowledging that this was not the first time Zika was detected in Malaysia — previous incidents date back to the ‘60s — Dr Subramaniam said that the spread had not been endemic in the past.

“So, to check now, we would have to do a community-level blood screening for antibody levels at a large scale, and that would be academic.”

A Malaysian medical journal by the Faculty on Medicine, University Malaya recently surfaced online in a report by US-based National Public Radio, suggesting that up to 30 per cent of Malaysians had immunity to the Zika virus due to its presence in the country in the past.

Dr Subramanian said that while he could not verify the claim, he hoped that it was true as it would mean that the spread of the disease would not be as severe.

The Health Ministry on Sunday reported the fourth case of Zika infection in Malaysia.

Zika, which is mainly carried by the Aedes mosquito but can also be transmitted through sex, has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than usual. THE MALAY MAIL ONLINE