Written by Rasheffa Rashid

History of Zika Virus

Zika virus which is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito is not a new born disease, it was founded in decades ago when it was first identified in Uganda 1947 in monkey (WHO, 2016) before founded in humans in 1952. According to the WHO, the virus has been among the human community but was not highlighted in the media until the first large outbreak where Zika infection cases were reported from the Islands of Yap in 2007 (WHO, 2016). Yap is an island group in the Western Pacific that is part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Image credit: Image source

Since then, the virus spread explosively, to other Pacific Islands before it landed in Brazil, and from there spreading rapidly to South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean (Teh, 2016). The outbreak of Zika virus began in Brazil in April 2015 which later spread to South and Central America and then the Caribbean Island (Teh, 2016).

Several countries around the globe were experiencing Zika virus outbreaks. In January 2016, a level 2 travel alert was imposed for people travelling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing (Teh, 2016) especially pregnant women. The virus was spreading from one country to another, through individuals that may have been infected by virus, travelling from Zika infected nations back to their own country and others countries around the world.

A news report by Bernama on January 23, 2016, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) had said, that the virus has been reported in 23 countries over the two months since its worldwide alert in late 2015. It also said, Zika virus has spread to 13 additional countries and territories in just one month since.

Zika Symptoms:

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  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache


Zika Virus & Pregnant Women 

Unlike a normal person, the consequences of a pregnant woman are more serious, this is because as the Zika virus infection can cause microcephaly in a small number of unborn foetus of pregnant women. According to WHO’s earlier reports, there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get infected with the virus. Pregnant women with symptoms of probably infected with Zika virus are advised to seek medical attention immediately.

How Zika Virus Transmit

The Aedes mosquito-borne disease primarily is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. This is this the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever (WHO, 2016). However, what differs Zika virus from other types of diseases carried by Aedes mosquito is it can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

 Prevention Measures:

  • People can avoid mosquito bites by wearing light coloured clothes
  • Keep the doors, and window shut, sleeping under a mosquito net
  • Apply insect repellent.
  • Keep home surroundings clean
  • Keep buckets, drums, pots, gutter and used tyres empty.


Summary of Chronology of on The Spread of Zika Virus in Singapore & Malaysia

Since the large and fast moving spread of the infectious Zika Virus in 2015, the South East Asian region has been alerted on the scare. Thus the probability of the disease transmitted into close to Malaysia country was still low but not impossible, however, the Malaysian Health Ministry were prepared at any cost to face the outbreak.

BBC on May 20 reported that Singapore declared its first imported Zika case in May. A 48-year-old local who had travelled to Brazil, where the outbreak started, got infected with the disease. Likely Malaysia as well alerted its public on the matter, according to a Bernama report on that date, Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam, advised Malaysians not to panic following the Zika threat in Singapore. He said, it was among the first few Zika cases reported in Singapore, but was claimed as an imported and isolated case. No travel restriction was imposed between the two neighbouring nations as it situation back then was still under control and no sign of the disease spreading and not an epidemic.

However, managing the large outbreak on August 28 which was more intense and gave a different implication, the Ministry of Health in Singapore confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in the republic, with the victim being a 47-year-old Malaysian woman living in southeastern Singapore as the city-state’s first case of a local transmission of the virus.  Zika was spreading fast in Singapore, five days later, a Bernama report said 115 cases were confirmed of Zika virus infection.

Malaysia on the other hand, became a victim itself, when it first announced its first Zika infection case on September 1. According to the Bernama news report, the Malaysian Health Ministry said the victim, a woman from Klang was tested positive for the disease upon her return from Singapore a week before. Malaysia immediately became risk at high alert. The virus spread in late August alarmed the Singapore Ministry of Health did not rule out further community transmission in the country, as some of the Zika victims tested positive also live or work in other parts of Singapore (MOH, 2016).

The Malaysian Health Ministry at this level quickly took first preventive measures to conduct screenings at the main entrance into the country especially at the airports. Picking a Bernama news report on August 28, the Malaysian Health Ministry said, it would intensify monitoring at the two main entry points into Johor Bharu following the case of a Malaysian woman being infected by the Zika virus in Singapore. Quoting Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the report said, precautionary measures to be taken included distributing pamphlets on the prevention of Zika infection and placing paramedics at the entry points to examine tourists showing signs of the disease.

Seven days later, on September 7, a report by Bernama said, the first case involving a pregnant woman was confirmed in Malaysia. According to Datuk Seri S Subramaniam who made a press announcement, the 27-year-old woman’s last visit to Singapore was six months ago, but her husband commuted daily to his workplace in Geylang. Zika infection among pregnant woman created massive attention from the public and the media, and at a point, religious department came up with new guidelines on the possibility of abortion if a pregnant woman is infected with the virus which may result the child born having Guillain-Barré syndrome and other complications.



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