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Vietnam Reports First Two Cases of Zika Virus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Gleyce Kelly embraces her daughter Maria Geovana, who has microcephaly, in Recife, Brazil, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Two women in Vietnam Mosquitoes have been infected with the Zika virus, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The younger of the patients is eight weeks pregnant, they added.

The Zika virus, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and transmitted to humans, is linked in Brazil to thousands of suspected cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect. It was first discovered in Uganda in 1947.

A 64-year-old woman in the beach city of Nha Trang and a pregnant 33-year-old in Ho Chi Minh City fell sick in late March, and three rounds of tests have confirmed they are Zika-positive, health officials said.

The 64-year-old woman became the country’s first confirmed case after being admitted to hospital complaining of fever, headache and a rash on her legs.

As for the second woman, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a Vietnam Television broadcast she was eight weeks pregnant.

In a statement, the health ministry said that the sufferers are in stable condition and no further infections have been found among their relatives and neighbors.

“After epidemic investigations, we consider the source of infection could be mosquito,” Long said of the patient in Ho Chi Minh City.

Health officials have quarantined the living areas of the patient’s families and taken samples from others living nearby for further tests, said Nguyen Chi Dung, head of Ho Chi Minh City’s department of preventive medicine.

Vietnam had already raised its alert level against the virus after an Australian tourist tested positive after leaving the country on March 6, the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said.

The World Health Organization is working closely with Vietnam, a WHO official told a health ministry meeting to announce the infections.

The WHO says there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though conclusive proof may take months or years.

Microcephaly is characterized by unusually small heads that can give rise to developmental problems.

Zika has been endemic in Asia, with infection cases confirmed in Bangladesh, South Korea, Thailand and China.

Brazil said it had confirmed more than 860 cases of microcephaly, most of which it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers. It is investigating more than 4,200 additional suspected cases of microcephaly.