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As of 1 February 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Zika virus to be a Global Health Emergency, signalling the severity of the outbreak as countries brace to work harder in combating and containing the disease from further spreading. The virus is viewed to be a serious threat as it has been linked to microcephaly, a condition where newborns have abnormally small heads and under developed brains.
The latest news on the virus to hit the headlines was a report on a person from Dallas, Texas who had likely been infected with the virus through sexual contact. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not yet confirming sexual transmission, it is warning people of the possibility. Zika virus is primarily transmitted via the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito but it can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her unborn child during pregnancy or even during childbirth. This is the major epidemic that is currently plaguing the regions of Central, South America and the Caribbean.
While closer to home, neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia has since confirmed their first Zika infected cases. In Malaysia, Zika virus was first isolated from mosquitoes back in 1969 in Bentong, Pahang. However unlike dengue, Zika shows relatively mild or even close to no symptoms, making it hard to detect. Those infected with the Zika virus may not even realise it, hence, no medical attention was sought. This led to extremely low records of the Zika virus being reported in 1969 until the recent outbreak that possibly amplified the otherwise rare event.
Transmitted via the same breed of mosquitoes responsible for dengue and chikungunya, the presence of Zika virus in Malaysia was not as pronounced as that of dengue virus. WHO’s Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director, Prof Dr Sazaly said that the methods used to prevent Zika infection are similar to that used to prevent dengue. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam stressed that the war on dengue in Malaysia remains a higher priority than Zika virus, but adds on that it aids in preventing the latter virus from spreading as both viruses come from the same vector.
In fact, all efforts taken in combating the dengue virus will also help in minimising the risk of Zika virus infection. The CDC states that there is currently no vaccine available to prevent Zika and that the best way to prevent its infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
At Rentokil, we deploy holistic approach to minimise the chances of being bitten by the perilous Aedes mosquitoes. Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) is a programme involving merely four (4) simple steps that can help fight against the Aedes mosquitoes targeted at each life cycle.
As mosquitoes prefer to breed in stagnant water, by implementing good environmental hygiene practices and sanitation measures may help to minimise the disease.