Thailand Reports Around 200 Zika Virus Cases Since January

Since January, Thailand has recorded about 200 cases of the dreaded Zika virus, health officials confirmed.

Thailand is now one of the countries in Asia to have the highest number of confirmed cases. The report comes after health officials asked the government to make its Zika reports more apparent to the public. Government officials fear that the Zika threat could have a negative impact on the country's tourism, one of the most important assets of Thailand.

The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect wherein babies born have abnormally smaller heads than other babies of the same age.  Health officials are currently assessing the condition of about two dozen pregnant women infected with the virus. Six women have given birth to normal babies.

"Since January, we have recorded about 200 cases and over the past three weeks, we have confirmed an average of 20 new cases per week," Ministry of Public Health spokesman Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said in a statement.

"The number of cases is stable," he added.

Asia has seen the sudden surge of the mosquito-borne illness in some of its countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. When Singapore reported its first case in August, the number has increased to about 300 as per record.

Zika virus, which is transmitted through Aedes mosquito bites, has long been present for decades but the first link of the virus to microcephaly was first established in Brazil in 2015. The country has reported more than 1,800 confirmed cases of microcephaly.

Apart from microcephaly, the virus has been associated with the emergence of a neurological condition dubbed as Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. The condition happens when the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system leading to changes in pain sensation and muscle weakness.

Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the public to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing protective clothes such as long-sleeves and pants, applying mosquito repellents, eradicating mosquito breeding sites and postponing travel to Zika-stricken countries or locations. Zika virus has still no known cure or vaccine so far.

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