Health officials just confirmed the first two cases of microcephaly linked to the Zika virus in Southeast Asia. The cases were both in Thailand, although officials haven’t said exactly where in the country. Zika outbreaks across Southeast Asia prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to warn people, especially pregnant women, against traveling to the area.
Out of three cases tested, laboratory tests linked two to the Zika virus in Thailand. Statistics collected by health officials reveal that since the start of 2016, there have been 349 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the nation; 33 of those cases were pregnant women. Some experts have said Thailand has not been forthcoming about the presence of the Zika virus in the country to protect tourism, but Department of Disease Control adviser Prasert Thongcharoen said “Thailand is not hiding anything and is ready to disclose everything.”
The World Health Organization said governments and locals should work to control mosquitoes, said to transmit the Zika virus as well as other illnesses Thailand faces such as dengue, chikungunya, and malaria.
Other health officials in the region said they would be monitoring, but they think the number of people who have the Zika virus is likely higher than they know. Philippines health secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubia told Reuters, “We do not test everybody, we test only those who are symptomatic. Yes, we are positive that the number is higher because we are not testing everyone.” Around 80 percent of infected people don’t have any symptoms of the Zika virus.
In Singapore, there have been 393 cases of Zika, including 16 pregnant women. The CDC said tourists should think about postponing trips to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Maldives, Laos, Philippines, Brunei, Timor-Leste, and Myanmar. There is already an Alert Level 2 travel notice in place for Singapore.