Only 1% to 5% of Zika cases lead to microcephaly, says Subra

KUALA LUMPUR: Out of every 100 pregnant mothers infected by the Zika virus, only one to five are likely to deliver babies with microcephaly and they should consult their gynaecologists for advice, said Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said that only 1% to 5% of infected pregnant mothers may end up delivering babies with disabilities. That means 95% or more will be all right,” he said at a press conference during the 11th Allied Health Scientific Conference 2016 yesterday.

Dr Subramaniam said that if a pregnant mother tested positive for Zika, she would have to go through various tests including ultrasound to monitor the development of the foetus.

“Then, doctors will be able to tell at which stage, if anything had gone wrong. That is the best,” he said.

Asked if the Government required all pregnant women to be screened, especially at the country’s entry points, he said it was best for those who want to get pregnant or were already pregnant to seek advice from their gynaecologists to know what needs to be done.

He said that if they had fever, rashes or any symptoms, the doctor might recommend a blood test but more importantly, pregnant mothers need to follow up with check-ups.

Dr Subramaniam said the ministry had a meeting with obstetrics and gynaecology specialists from the public and private sectors and they would know what to do with a Zika case.

He also said the current law does not provide for abortion for pregnant mothers infected with Zika although he welcomed Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri approval for abortion in such cases.

On Monday, an online portal had reported that the mufti had approved abortions for cases of mothers infected with the Zika virus which is linked to microcephaly.

Dr Subramaniam said that if the mufti had said abortion was allowed, this must be accepted by other muftis, so the ministry could be guided by professional as well as a religious stand.

“If the National Fatwa Council comes out with a statement, then it is easier for us to advise the patient,” he said.

He added dengue was more problematic compared with Zika because dengue spreads before the symptoms develop. For Zika, it spreads at the height of the symptoms such as when people are having fever or rash.

Dr Subramaniam said Zika genome typing was being done to compare with the virus found in Singapore and it would be ready this week.

He said there are two Zika strains – the Asian and the African strains.

“The one that went to South America is actually the Asian strain. Even if we do find ours as the Asian strain, we don’t know if it is the Asian strain from Asia or the Asian strain from South America,” he said.