Institute for Medical Research to test Zika strains of Sarawak sisters

KUCHING: The Institute for Medical Research is conducting tests to ascertain the Zika virus strain in two infected Sarawakian sisters, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

A 35-year-old pregnant woman in Miri and her 39-year-old sister in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, were the confirmed fifth and sixth cases in the country.

Dr Subramaniam said the IMR was trying to determine whether the strain of virus was a local one or that from French Polynesia. He said the Miri woman had gone to Singapore in July but it was too long a period to get the infection now.

A check by the Miri Division Health Office showed the area where she lived in had many breeding sites of the Aedes mosquito, carrier of Zika as well as dengue, he told reporters on the sidelines of the 41st Annual Dermatology Conference 2016 here last night.

“She visited Singapore in July. The time between her trip and infection is too long for Zika and because she is pregnant, the manifestation could take place later.

“These are the things we are looking at,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam said the older woman had visited her sister in Miri on Aug 26 and returned to Kuala Lumpur on Sept 6.

“That could be one factor which led to the spread of the virus.

“Obviously, a mosquito bit one sister and then the other; so that’s most probably how the other got infected,” he said.

On another matter, Dr Subra­maniam said the Health Ministry would hold discussions with the National Fatwa Council by the end of this month on a unified stand of whether to allow Zika-infected pregnant women to abort their babies.

“We will give them (the council) the medical and scientific input. They have to use that and decide on the religious component,” he said.

Zika-infected pregnant women face the risk of giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller compared to healthy babies of the same sex and age. — Bernama