PUTRAJAYA: It’s now more important than ever for people to rid their surrounding areas of mosquito breeding grounds to prevent the spread of dengue fever and the Zika virus, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam.
This would be the most effective way to curb the spread of the two diseases. However, while there were concerns over the spread of the Zika virus, he said Malaysia now faced the more serious problem of dengue fever.
“What the public should know is that dengue is the more serious problem here and efforts must be made to control it. If we can do this, then we can also control and prevent the Zika virus from spreading here. This is because the virus is also spread through the Aedes mosquito,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Nevertheless, he assured Malaysians that the health authorities were able to handle the related medical cases as well as patients.
Among the preparations were the setting up of a clinical surveillance system dedicated to the Zika virus at hospitals and clinics, ensuring that laboratories were always ready to conduct tests and to monitor microcephaly in reported cases.
He said the Malaysian authorities had the capacity and facilities to diagnose and manage the disease.
“The main concern is whether the virus causes microcephaly or abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development of the foetus. Unfortunately, there are no drugs to stop this,” said Dr Subramaniam.
He said the state and district health offices had been directed to ensure that preventive measures were in place, while the authorities at entry points were to monitor suspected patients through thermal scanners, similarly used to detect H1N1 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
“It is important for the public, especially those who have been to countries where the Zika virus is reported, to seek medical attention should they have fever, body ache, rashes and conjunctivitis. Go to a doctor even with the slightest health concern because in most cases, the disease doesn’t manifest with fever,” he added.
According to the health authorities, 80% of those infected with the Zika virus do not show any symptoms, not even fever.
Dr Subramaniam said that although the World Health Organization did not issue travel restrictions, the health authorities felt that it was necessary to advise the public to postpone their travels to countries where the Zika virus had been reported.
To a question, he said the ministry’s policy on abortion was that if a pregnancy had serious effects on the mother’s life, the doctor could suggest an abortion.
“This policy hasn’t changed. We are more inclined towards looking at how to prevent the Zika virus. Abortion is a tricky and sensitive issue which involves other matters apart from medicine,” he responded when asked if the Government would change the law on abortion in light of the Zika virus.
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