Skip to Content

Indonesia among most prone to Zika: New study

by September 3, 2016 General

Indonesia is among countries most vulnerable to the spread of the Zika virus in Asia and Africa according to a study published Thursday by The Lancet medical journal on its website.

The researchers identified countries with high numbers of travelers arriving from Zika virus-affected areas of the Americas from Dec. 1, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2015, those with large populations at risk of the mosquito-borne Zika virus infection — countries which are hot and humid, a potential breeding ground of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main carrier of the virus — and countries with low health expenditures per capita compared to their population size.

Based on these factors the researchers said, “we found that India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh have some of the highest expected risks for Zika virus importation and population health impact”.

“As the Zika virus epidemic in the Americas intensifies and expands, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of infected travelers are now transporting the virus to distant regions of the world,” the report said.

Despite China’s population as the world’s largest, its health expenditure per capita was larger than other high risk countries, said the report of the study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Singapore, the most advanced country in Southeast Asia, was not mentioned, where as of Friday confirmed cases of Zika infection reached 190, though dozens of patients have recovered.

Kamran Khan, one of the study’s authors and an infectious-disease physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said, as quoted by The Washington Post on Thursday, “Our broader purpose was to provide a look ahead to some of the next frontiers [where there has been little attention to Zika].”

“If you’re thinking about how to use resources, here are the places and times where you would want to use resources in the most efficient ways possible.”

The study was conducted at a time when world alarm on the Zika virus focused particularly on Brazil ahead of the recently concluded Olympic Games and the rest of the Americas. Confirmation of Zika infection in Singapore triggered worldwide alarm. Some 2.6 billion people live in Asia and the Pacific in dense tropical areas and lacked medical resources.

Meanwhile agencies quoted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency committee statements that “there should be no general restrictions on travel and trade with countries with Zika transmission including Brazilian cities hosting the Paralympic Games”. Many countries including Indonesia have issued travel advisories to Singapore.

The Zika infection is known to be mild for adults but is potential dangerous for fetuses, potentially causing abnormal small heads and brain defects. However reports cited experts saying pregnant women need check ups only if they show the main symptoms including a high fever and rashes.

The WHO committee also stressed that the virus “continues to be an international health emergency due to continuing geographic expansion and considerable gaps in understanding [issues surrounding the virus]”.

Meanwhile, The Star reported from Petaling Jaya in Malaysia that its citizen who became infected in Singapore was recuperating in hospital.

The husband and wife had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug. 19 and returned on Aug 21. A week later, the woman developed rashes and a fever, and her urine tested positive for the Zika virus.