The Zika-related malady of microcephaly that has plagued Brazil and much of the Americas is now in Thailand where two babies recently born there have the birth defect, marking Asia’s first reports of the condition.
While not all pregnant women infected with Zika deliver microcephalic babies, researchers say Zika is one of the leading causes of the birth defect that leaves newborns with undersized head growth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global Zika state of emergency in February 2016 and forecast up to four million cases within the year. WHO says the Zika virus exists in at least 70 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives and Bangladesh.
“Zika virus infection is a serious threat to the health and well-being of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Countries across the (WHO southeast) region must continue to strengthen measures aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to Zika virus transmission,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO Southeast Asia.
Zika, which has no cure or vaccine, infected more than 1.5 million people in nearly 70 countries since last year according to WHO, with Brazil the hardest hit.
Zika is not new to Southeast Asia, which has reported an increase in the number of recorded cases in the region in recent months.
A leading Thai virologist has reported that “4.3 infants per 100,000” are born with microcephaly in Thailand, twice the global average.
Before WHO announced the Thai test results, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory urging pregnant women to “consider postponing non-essential travel to Southeast Asia countries with reports of Zika virus.”
Operation Smile is a medical mission organization that typically mobilizes scores of volunteers to countries that now have evidence of the Zika virus. They have issued advisories for their volunteers.
Pray for families in Thailand and elsewhere who now have microcephaly babies, asking for God’s grace for the children and their caregivers. Also, pray for public health officials in affected countries as they lead the effort to contain the virus.