JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - At least one person in Jambi, Central Sumatra, has been found to be infected with the Zika virus since 2015, a researcher has said.
The virus was found during an outbreak of dengue fever that hit the province from December 2014 to April 2015, Eijkman Biological Molecular Institute deputy director Herawati Sudoyo was reported as saying by news website kompas.com on Friday.
"It started during the dengue fever outbreak in Jambi. We were ordered to examine samples of blood from 103 patients. In one patient, we found the Zika virus in a sample of his blood," said Herawati.
Zika, which is carried by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that also spreads dengue fever, is believed to have spread from Africa to Asia. The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
But in Brazil, where a Zika outbreak is spreading like wildfire, the virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment.
Eijkman's Frilasita Yudhaputri said the Jambi patient, a 27-year-old man, had never travelled abroad. Therefore, the institution concluded that the virus had been in the province for sometime.
"The finding was reported to the Health Ministry and was published in an international journal," she added.
Frilasita believed the Zika virus had spread in Jambi together with dengue fever. She argued, therefore, that the government needed to prepare for the further possible spread of the virus.
Frilasita said the patient in Jambi had shown similar symptoms to patients in other Asian countries like Thailand. His symptoms differed, however, from the patients infected in Brazil.
"The best way to prevent the spread is to cut the vector cycle by killing mosquitoes," she stressed.
Separately, Oscar Primadi, head of the Health Ministry's communications and health service bureau, called on people not to panic.
Meanwhile, Wiendra Waworuntu, the ministry's contagious disease prevention and monitoring director, called on residents to keep alert for the spread of larva and to avoid travelling to countries in the grip of a Zika virus outbreak.