KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will closely monitor blood banks in the country to prevent the spread of the Zika virus via blood transfusions after Malaysia recorded 40 suspected new cases.
Each state has at least one blood bank, while main hospitals in the country also have their own blood bank.
“We will ensure it is managed well, so we can reduce the risk of people getting infected by blood transfusions, especially pregnant women or those who are planning a family,” Health Minister Dr S Subramanian told reporters after launching the MIC gallery at the party’s headquarters here.
According to the United States Centre of Disease Control and Prevention there is a strong possibility that the Zika virus could be spread through blood transfusions as most people infected with the virus do not show any symptoms. Blood donors may not know they have been infected.
As of Sept 9, Malaysia has confirmed the existence of four Zika cases.
He also revealed that private laboratories had begun conducting blood tests on patients suspected of being infected by the virus.
The blood tests must be sent to the Institute for Medical Research, which falls under the Government’s purview, for confirmation.
On a related matter, Subramanian said he could not confirm a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that said scientists had first detected the virus in the Southeast Asian region, including Malaysia in the 1960s.
According to the WHO, Zika was “lurking” in Asian countries and possibly infecting people silently, thereby rendering people from this region already immune to the virus.
“We are unable to confirm reports by WHO unless we conduct field studies and blood tests at the community level on the people’s immunity against Zika.
“Once you get Zika you will have immunity against it for life.”
Zika, which is spread mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has been detected in 67 countries and territories, including Brazil.
Malaysia recorded its first case of Zika infection after a 58-year-old woman in Bandar Botanic in Klang was found to be infected on Sept 1.
On Sept 3, Malaysia recorded its second Zika case when a 61-year-old man tested positive for the virus in Likas, Sabah. The man however, died the same day due to heart complications.
A 27-year-old pregnant woman in Johor Bahru was the third reported case, and her husband is now the fourth victim of the mosquito-borne virus infection in the country.