Thailand wary as more Zika cases reported

PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Since the Zika virus first caught the world's attention following one of the most serious outbreaks, in Brazil last year, Thai health authorities have been at pains to allay local fears that a similar outbreak could occur in the Southeast Asian country, which reported its first confirmed case of Zika in 2012.

But there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Zika cases since the beginning of 2016, with 97 reported across 10 provinces, after only five cases were reported on average each year since 2012.

Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of the Thai health ministry's disease control department, admits the rising number of infections is a serious concern, although nowhere near the scale seen in countries such as Brazil.

"We are not in that much of a severe situation. You can look at the numbers. On average, compared to what's happened in South America, I think [there is] a big difference," Amnuay told the Nikkei Asian Review.

According to the World Health Organisation's latest report on Zika, 61 countries or territories had reported by June 30 ongoing cases of the virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that also transmits dengue, yellow fever and the chikungunya virus. Sexual transmission of the virus has also been reported in some cases.

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