Zika virus: Myanmar reports first case as pregnant foreign woman infected

A city worker sprays chemicals with a fumigator to kill mosquitoes in an effort to control the spread of the Zika virus at a school in Bangkok on Sept 14, 2016.
A city worker sprays chemicals with a fumigator to kill mosquitoes in an effort to control the spread of the Zika virus at a school in Bangkok on Sept 14, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar has detected its first Zika infection, with state media reporting on Friday (Oct 28) that a pregnant foreign woman had been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus.

The World Health Organisation warned earlier this month that Zika was likely to spread throughout Asia after being detected in 70 countries worldwide, including at least 19 in the Asia-Pacific region.

While the virus linked to birth defects has been present in South-east Asia for years, there has been an uptick in the number of recorded cases in the region in recent months.

"Authorities confirmed the infection in the 32-year-old foreign woman yesterday following a laboratory test," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported, adding that she was in Yangon, the country's largest city.

The report cited the health and sports ministry as saying it was the country's "first case of Zika infection".

It was not immediately clear if the woman was a tourist.

Zika causes only mild symptoms in most people, including fever, sore eyes and a rash.

But pregnant women with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly - a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads.

A WHO report released this month warned the Asia-Pacific region is likely to see "new cases and possibly new outbreaks of Zika".

It said the virus is "highly likely to further spread in the region", which includes China, Japan, Australia, most South-east Asian nations and the Pacific islands.

At least 400 Zika cases have been detected in Singapore, while Thailand last month reported its first cases of Zika-linked microcephaly in two babies.

There is no cure or vaccine for the virus.