Vietnam reports first likely Zika-related microcephaly case

By Nam Phuong   October 18, 2016 | 10:51 am GMT+7
Vietnam reports first likely Zika-related microcephaly case
A baby girl with microcephaly in Dak Lak Province in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress

Doctors are awaiting test results to confirm the cause of the birth defect.

A woman who tested positive for the Zika virus has given birth to a baby with an abnormally small head.

Doctors are monitoring the four-month-old girl and her mother in the Central Highlands' province of Dak Lak. The hospital has already sent lab samples to Japan’s Nagasaki University for testing.

Tran Dac Phu, director of the preventive health department at the Ministry of Health, said the final test results will determine if the virus caused the birth defect.

The 23-year-old mother, a member of the E De ethnic minority, began suffering rashes and high fever during the second and third trimesters of her pregnancy; she was not screened for the virus.

Five consecutive tests conducted on the mother came back positive for the Zika virus, Vietnamese doctors said during a meeting with experts from the World Health Organization and the U.S.’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hanoi on Monday.

The CDC has reccommended that women wait at least eight weeks after a possible exposure to the Zika virus before becoming pregnant; men should wait six months.

Microcephaly in newborns can be caused by myriad complications, including the rubella virus, the bacterium that causes Syphilis, poisoning and poor nutrition.

The birth defect appears in 1-10 percent of babies whose mothers contract the Zika virus during the first trimester. Thailand reported two cases of microcephaly related to the virus in late September, representing the first cases in Southeast Asia.

Phu, of the ministry of health, said populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito (a vector species for the Zika virus that also carries dengue and yellow fever) has increased significantly in the Central Highlands in recent months.

“The virus can attack pregnant women and microcephaly cases will be inevitable,” Thanh Nien newspaper quoted Phu as saying.

A study conducted by Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology between March 2015 and May 2016 discovered Zika virus in 56 of 23,682 Aedes aegypti sample mosquitoes (0.24 percent) collected in Nha Trang, the tourist hub of Khanh Hoa Province.

Vietnam has reported seven Zika infections, including four in Ho Chi Minh City. The other cases were reported in Binh Duong, Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen Provinces.

According to the World Health Organization and the CDC, the Zika virus is circulating in at least 60 countries.

There have been more than 2,000 babies born with Zika-related microcephaly or other birth defects around the world, according to the latest WHO report. Brazil has more than 1,800 confirmed cases of Zika-related microcephaly; the U.S. has reported 23.

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