In contrary to popular belief, the Zika virus is not a new entity. It was first isolated in the 1940’s in Uganda and has gone unnoticed under the category of “anthropod-borne viral disease”. But it did not gain much of public attention until recent outbreak in 2015 in Brazil that resulted in fetal developmental defects.
In fact, the Zika virus fever is no stranger to us South-East-Asians. Because the disease is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the very same vector responsible for Dengue fever, Chikungunya fever and Yellow Fever.
This aggressive “Asian Tiger” mosquitoe is a day-time biter and has become extremely adapted to living with human in the vicinity of villages. Water puddles, empty bottles, vehicle tyres, rainwater tanks or any containers capable of collecting even a few drops of water can serve as a perfect breeding ground for these mosquitoes.
The spread of Zika poses a serious public health threat, particularly for pregnant women. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed its correlation to microcephaly, a congenital defect that can lead to developmental milestone delay and permanent health damage. So far, there is limited information about the virus as to what it can cause and how we can treat.
If we are serious about keeping the families safe, we can’t afford to sit back on this issue. We need to step up mosquito control and annihilation, raise awareness campaigns, organize community cleaning activities on a large scale and provide families with critical health services, including the access to contraception, develop a treatment and vaccine, and ensure that the people are well educated to know how to protect themselves before this issue gets out of hand.