Zika Now in Southeast Asia

By Henry Wong

The Zika virus is not slowing down and has now spread to 11 Southeast Asian countries. The now infected countries are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put out a new warning for people to avoid non-essential travel to these and other Zika-infected areas, especially if they are considering pregnancy. Since the virus can be sexually transmitted, it is recommended that men wait six months and that women wait a full eight weeks before conceiving a baby or having unprotected sex if they have been to these areas. The World Health Organization recommends a longer wait for women of six months as well.

Many times those who have been infected with the virus do not show symptoms. Apparently, only one out of five people who have been infected will show signs of the disease. This is problematic because birth defects of babies born to mothers infected with Zika can result. A severe condition where a baby is born with a small head, called microcephaly, is one extreme defect. Other babies could suffer from vision or hearing problems, brain issues or learning disabilities.

Since Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, it is advisable to use mosquito repellent at all times. Even those who have traveled to Zika-infested zones have been advised to wear mosquito repellent for three months when returning to the United States. Such a precaution will reduce being bitten and thereby spreading the disease to another victim. There have been thousands of US travelers who have brought Zika to the US, which includes 800 pregnant women, and a reported 134 home-grown cases in Florida.

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