The Malaysia Health Ministry confirmed with the Perak Health Department that a local man has been infected with the Zika virus. According to reporting by New Strait Times on October 12, 2019, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director General of Health, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, said ‘that this person was the first victim to be infected by the (Zika) virus this year. The ministry’s disease control division confirmed the virus to be Zika. And, the patient is still warded and is stable,” he added.
Control measures have been carried out by the Perak district Health Office such as issuing a Section 8 Notice to clean up high-risk breeding grounds,” he added. Perak is one of the 13 states of Malaysia, which has a population of about 32 million people. Though the Zika virus is not lethal, and usually causes light fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, with symptoms usually lasting under a week, the danger lies with a type of deformity that the Zika virus can affect babies.
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her foetus. And, Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners. As of October 2019, there is not a preventive vaccine available.
However, Malaysia recorded its first case of Zika infection on September 1, 2016. Also in 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over major worries regarding an association between the Zika disease and microcephaly and other neurological disorders in the epidemic region of Latin America and the Pacific Islands. Singapore, a neighboring country, also reported its first minor Zika epidemic in 2016. And, as of September 13, 2019, the National Environment Agency confirmed 3 cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus infections. This brings the total number of Zika cases to 10 during 2019.
The last cluster of Zika cases in Singapore was in July 2017. However, no Zika outbreak has been reported in Malaysia to date. A February 2019 study aimed to discuss all confirmed cases captured under the Malaysia Zika surveillance system and explore why Malaysia did not suffer a similar ZIKV outbreak as the other two countries. This observational study found only 8 out of 4,043 cases tested positive for ZIKV infection.
Despite similar ecological background characteristics, Malaysia was not as affected by Singapore’s outbreak. This could be related to pre-existing immunity against Zika in this population, which developed after the first introduction of the Zika virus in Malaysia decades ago, concluded these researchers. This hypothesis will soon be answered by a study conducted by Malaysia MOH. Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel vaccination suggestions for Malaysia on August 2, 2019.