By PUANGCHOMPOO PRASERT
ALL PREGNANT women living in 16 provinces where Zika outbreak has been detected will be tested for the virus, Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said yesterday, as two babies from infected mothers were born with severe birth defects.
The newborns were diagnosed last Friday with microcephaly linked to the virus and had abnormally small heads, although that problem can be caused by many factors.
These babies were the first in Southeast Asia linked to this severe impact from the mosquito-borne virus.
The Zika virus has so far been found in parts of 16 provinces, the minister said, so testing is planned for the continuous public safety.
“The ministry will so have information on taking care of affected mothers and babies,” he said.
Dr Piyasakol presided over a meeting of officials yesterday to discuss Zika and design more measures to combat it.
He said the ministry had been monitoring and controlling Zika and eradicating Aedes mosquitoes and having pregnant women tested to see if they have the virus.
Piyasakol said the ministry had also been formulating Zika healthcare guidelines for pregnant women in affected areas and babies born with microcephaly, an abnormal smallness of the head.
He urged people to turn this crisis into an opportunity to reduce the risk of Aedes mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever, by destroying mosquito breeding grounds.
Piyasakol said a report by the Disease Control Department Bureau of Vector-Borne Diseases showed there were 44,396 dengue fever cases in Thailand between January and September 27 and 33 cases were fatal.
The figure was 50.7 per cent less than the previous year, in large part due to people eradicating mosquito larvae, he added.
He said places with the highest number of Aedes mosquitoes were religious sites (60 per cent of sites), schools (41 per cent), factories (38 per cent) and hospitals (27.6 per cent).
The minister said people should check home water-storage containers to make sure they were not infested with mosquito larvae.
The ministry had observed 10,000 suspected people in 16 Zika-risky areas and found more than 300 patients since early this year.
Meanwhile, authorities in Lop Buri province have reported a three-month pregnant woman suspected of contracting Zika. This led to officials spraying insecticide to eradicate Aedes mosquitoes.
They are also educating local residents in the area about the danger of Zika and what can be done reduce the risk of contracting the disease.
Lop Buri health official Pairoj Surattanawanich said 10 people – including a child – were being monitored for possible Zika infection, with nine of them from Muang district and one from Nong Moung district.