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PUTRAJAYA, Feb 3, 2016:

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam today issued guidelines for the people to protect themselves against the Zika virus infection, warning that dengue-prevalent Malaysia offered a conducive environment for the spread of the disease.

The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus infection as a public health emergency of international concern. The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito that is also a carrier of the dengue virus.

Subramaniam advised Malaysians, particularly pregnant women, to postpone travel to 24 countries in the Americas where the Zika virus infection had been detected.

These countries are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadaloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

The Zika virus infection has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. According to WHO, there have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October last year.

“If travel to these countries is inevitable, it is necessary to take preventive measures to avoid being bitten by the Aedes mosquito, such as by wearing clothes that cover the whole body and constantly using insect repellent,” Subramaniam said in a statement.

The Health Minister said people who suffered from symptoms that indicate a possibility of Zika virus infection must seek immediate treatment at the nearest health facility.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

Subramaniam said government and non-government agencies as well as the people should implement preventive measures, including ensuring that their environment was clean and free from mosquito-breeding grounds.

The people must also protect themselves against mosquito bites, including by using insect repellent, wearing clothing that covered the whole body, using mosquito netting and spraying aerosol to kill adult mosquitoes, he said.

“People must seek out and destroy the Aedes breeding grounds every week in their respective premises. It is recommended that they install insect screens on windows,” he said.

Subramaniam said the Zika virus was spread by the Aedes mosquitoe which was also a carrier of the dengue virus, and the environment in the country was conducive for the spread of the Zika virus.

If the Zika virus infection spread to the country, it could become a serious epidemic, just like dengue fever, he said, adding that the Zika virus had also been detected in Indonesia and Australia.

Zika virus guidelines. — TRP infographic
Zika virus guidelines. — TRP infographic

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