Asia Minute: Zika Virus Raising Concerns in Southeast Asia

Aug 31, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

News of the Zika virus in recent weeks has focused on Brazil and in the United States, on Miami. But Zika is also a growing concern in the Asia Pacific. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Singapore’s count of locally-transmitted cases of Zika virus is approaching 100.  That’s more than double the number of locally-transmitted cases in Florida.  26 new cases were confirmed this week in Singapore, and doctors there are advising all pregnant women who develop fever and rash to be tested for the virus.  Government officials say they expect the number of cases to rise—and with Singapore’s role as a transit hub for Southeast Asia, those cases may spread.  Most people infected with Zika don’t get symptoms—and they’re not even aware they carry it.  But for pregnant women and newborns it can be devastating. 

Researchers first tracked the virus in the late 1940’s—finding those initial cases from the Zika forest in Uganda….giving the virus its name.  In 2013, French Polynesia suffered a large outbreak.  More recently, the World Health Organization says Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are all “countries with possible endemic transmission or evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in 2016.”  Public health officials also worry cases of the Zika virus in Southeast Asia may be greatly underreported.