Currently there are more than 150 of Zika Virus cases being reported in Singapore alone. Malaysia and other countries responded swiftly by screening their borders, especially on travellers arriving from Singapore.
Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri S Subramaniam on 27 August 2016 stated that it was only a matter of time before cases related to the Zika Virus will be reported in the country.
True enough, Malaysia’s first Zika Virus case was detected on 1st of September 2016 after a 58 year-old woman who came back from Singapore more than week ago complained of high fever and tested positive for the virus.
The Zika Virus is actually not new. It originated from the Zika Forest in Uganda and was first isolated in 1947.
The virus was first contained within the narrow equatorial belt in Africa but had somehow spread to the Americas that led to the ‘2015 Zika virus epidemic’ there. Zika is very much similar to the dengue fever where it can be transmitted through mosquito bites and mild to medium-level fever could be the initial indication of an early stage of infection. Like dengue fever, the early symptoms for Zika makes it hard for those infected to really opt for proper treatments as they would normally assume that it is a ‘normal fever’ and traditionally consume paracetamol tablets to ease the rising body temperature.
As of now, there is no vaccines to cure or prevent the Zika Virus infection, though a quarantine is highly required to avoid a further spread. The problem for Singapore is that there are 55 million travellers who travel through their Changi Airport every year, and people who carry the virus in the first few days may not even have any fever to initiate an alert for a further check-up.
The Zika-infected woman detected in Malaysia recently was only properly diagnosed after complaining of the symptoms about a week after returning from Singapore. In fact, almost 80 percent of those carrying the Zika Virus do not show early symptoms at all. It is therefore impossible for the authorities at the border to conduct a thorough blood test for every traveller from Singapore, hence there is no 100 percent assurance that all of the infected could be stopped from crossing over into our borders. However, such measures are still required for the authorities to at least help slow down or possibly halt the spread of the virus to a certain degree.
It is still unclear as to how extensive the virus has spread, though foreign workers in Singapore whom originated from China or India and Bangladesh may have brought the virus back to their respective home countries by now. Travellers from these countries too could have entered Malaysia and carry the virus with them. Again, it is only a matter of time before more cases of Zika would be reported in Malaysia and other countries throughout Asia.
Despite the scare the virus has created, there is a way for each and every one of us to do our part to stop the Zika from spreading even further.
First, while the authorities and medical experts do their part to find a possible cure, we as Malaysians could straight away conduct the needed medical tests if symptoms like fever, rash and joint pains started to show to avoid our loved ones from contracting the virus from us, just in case.
Secondly, we do know that mosquitoes are the main culprits for being the main carriers of the virus hence efforts must be done to reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
Trash containers, plastic bags or empty tin cans or pots or even old tyres that can hold water could be the perfect spots for mosquitoes to breed around our homes, hence should be taken care of responsibly by all of us.
True there is no cure for Zika, but these efforts could really ease the concerns and help reduce the chances of a Zika spread here. After all, by doing this, it could indeed pave a way for a cleaner and a healthier Malaysia.