HANOI — Two Vietnamese women have tested positive for the Zika virus, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday, the first confirmed cases of the mosquito-transmitted infection in the Southeast Asian country. State media reported the younger of the patients is pregnant.
A 64-year-old from the popular beach resort of Nha Trang became the country’s first confirmed case after being admitted to hospital complaining of fever, headache and a rash on her legs, the ministry said in a statement. “She tested positive to Zika virus on 31 March 2016 at Nha Trang’s Pasteur Institute,” and the results have been confirmed by further testing, the statement said. The second confirmed case was a 33-year-old woman who lived in Vietnam’s southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City. “She had symptoms including a rash, conjunctivitis, and fatigue,” the statement said, adding that she tested positive for Zika last Thursday. VnExpress, a state media outlet, said the woman is two months pregnant.
Both patients are in a stable condition and the ministry has monitored the relatives and friends of the two women but “did not detect any other cases,” of the virus, which has been linked to increased rates of microcephaly in babies born to infected mothers. It was not immediately clear if either of the women had recently traveled abroad. 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.
Zika is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue fever, and was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. It is not usually life-threatening but has been linked to a rise in birth defects, with hundreds of babies born with unusually small heads in countries where the virus is prevalent. There have been a small number of Zika cases across the Greater Mekong region.
Nearby Thailand has recorded around five cases a year since 2012, according to health officials who earlier this year stressed that the virus currently posed no widespread threat.