First case of Zika Virus infection detected in Myanmar; mosquito control measures must be at the forefront of the fight against vector-borne diseases

On Thursday 28 October 2016 the Ministry of Health and Sports announced that a first case of Zika virus infection has been confirmed in Myanmar, in a foreign national who is currently pregnant. In light of this case, increasing preventative measures to control the spread of mosquitoes that can transmit Zika and other infections has become an even more relevant public health intervention.

“Mosquito control activities are crucial to control the spread of diseases. Reducing the number of mosquitoes will not only help curb the spread of Zika virus, but also of Dengue and Chikungunya, which remain prevalent in Myanmar. Everyone should play an active part in controlling and reducing the presence of mosquitoes, starting from increasing personal protection against mosquito bites and eliminating mosquitoes in and around their houses” says Dr Jorge Luna, WHO Representative for Myanmar.

WHO commends the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports for their prompt detection and notification of this first case of Zika virus, and stands ready to further support the country’s health authorities in the prevention and response to this health threat. Increased disease surveillance and mosquito-control activities must form a central part of effective vector-borne diseases control plans, and WHO stands ready to work with Myanmar health authorities to step up current vector control activities.

More on Zika Virus

Zika virus infections have been reported in 67 countries worldwide since 2015, and in Asia cases have been found in neighbouring Thailand as well as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Viet Nam. The Aedes mosquitoes, responsible for the spread of the disease, are prevalent across Myanmar and Asia more in general.

If contracted during pregnancy, Zika virus infections are associated with an increase in birth defects, namely microcephaly. Infections are also associated with an increased incidence of Guillame-Barré Syndrome, a rare but serious neurological condition that can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in adults and slightly more frequent in males.

WHO urges all pregnant women living in areas where Zika virus is present to take all possible measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These include using mosquito repellent at all times, wearing long, light-coloured clothing, sleeping under mosquito nets and ensuring that no standing water is present in or around the house. More frequent ante-natal check-ups are also recommended, especially if Zika infection is suspected (symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain etc.).

In addition, sexual partners of pregnant women who are living in or returning from Zika-affected territories are encouraged to practice safe sex (using condoms) or abstain from intercourse for the duration of the pregnancy, as Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual relations.