BALIK PULAU, Jan 30 ― The government has not issued any ban on Malaysians travelling to South America and Central America, but advised them to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of Zika virus infections.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya, however, said pregnant women are advised not to visit countries there as the virus can cause serious birth defects in babies.

“The virus causes flu-like fever and rashes on the body, joint pains and does not cause death but it is dangerous to pregnant women.

“This is because it can cause a condition, called 'microcephaly' resulting in the birth of babies with smaller heads or brains, as well as being afflicted by the 'Guillain-Barré' syndrome, a neurological disorder affecting the nervous system,” he told reporters after officiating at the Annual General Meeting of the Pulau Betong Fishermen's Association, here today.

As of yesterday, there were 22 countries reporting cases of Zika virus caused by bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes. They are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, US, Virgin Islands and Venezuela besides Samoa in the Pacific.

Dr Hilmi, who is also the MP for Balik Pulau, said the risk of the virus spreading to Malaysia is high because the country has Aedes mosquitoes.

“Until yesterday 300 samples of the Aedes mosquitoes nationwide have been taken and tested at the National Public Health Laboratory and the National Institute for Medical Research. The results were all negative for the Zika virus,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the land reclamation project off Permatang Damar Laut, near here is not the best method to implement to find capital to cover the cost of transport infrastructure development in Penang.

“The action is seen to seriously affect the livelihood of 1,500 fishermen because they depend on the sea catches,” he said.

Penang's Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, was recently reported as saying the project was seen as the best way to find capital to implement the Penang Transport Master Plan that costs RM27 billion. ― Bernama

Source from Malaymail Online

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