Malaysia's education ministry temporarily bans school trips to Singapore, Philippines amid Zika outbreak

A traveler walks near a travel advisory poster providing information on the Zika virus at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Sept 8, 2016.
A traveler walks near a travel advisory poster providing information on the Zika virus at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Sept 8, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

KOTA TINGGI - Malaysia’s education ministry has imposed a temporary ban on school trips and other visits to Singapore and the Philippines as part of its bid to prevent the spread of the Zika outbreak in the two countries, Malaysian media reports said. 

The ministry issued a nationwide circular to all state- and district-level education authorities announcing the temporary ban on Sept 1 after a high-level ministry meeting, Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid said on Saturday (Sept 10). 

"A circular was issued to all district education offices, state education departments and schools for all trips to Singapore and the Philippines to be postponed for the time being because of the cases of Zika in those countries," the New Straits Times quoted Datuk Seri Mahdzir as saying. 

Malaysia on Sept 1 reported its first case of Zika in a 58-year-old woman who had visited Singapore. On Sept 3, it recorded its first locally transmitted Zika case, a 61-year-old Sabah man who did not have any recent history of travel abroad and subsequently died of heart-related complications.

Singapore reported its first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus on Aug 27, a 47-year-old woman who had not travelled to any Zika-affected areas.

The first Zika case in Singapore was recorded in May after a 48-year-old man who had visited Brazil  tested positive for the virus. 

The Philippines on Monday (Sept 5) also reported its first case of locally transmitted Zika infection for the year, with a 45-year-old woman in the central city of Iloilo, testing positive for Zika. She  also had no recent history of travelling to any Zika- affected country.

Mr Mahdzir said the education ministry’s directive will remain in place until the country’s health ministry issues an update on the Zika situation in Singapore and the Philippines.

The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also spreads dengue. 

While Zika infection is mild for most, it can have fatal effects on unborn children. Pregnant women who get infected could give birth to babies with small heads, or microcephaly, and other brain defects.