National / Science & Health

Woman who contracted Zika in Vietnam diagnosed in Tokyo

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

A Vietnamese woman has been confirmed infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the first case in Tokyo since the government recognized the disease as Class-4 in February, the health ministry said Monday.

It is also the 11th case in Japan since the first infection was confirmed here in 2013. None of the people contracted the disease in Japan.

After the woman, who is in her 40s, was stung by a mosquito in Vietnam, she experienced a headache and rashes on her body on Sept. 5 before coming to Japan last Thursday, health ministry official Shoji Miyagawa said.

As she also suffered from other symptoms, including pain in her joints and pink eye, she visited a hospital last Friday, and a public health center in Tokyo confirmed her infection on Saturday.

Miyagawa said the woman has almost healed and will soon fly home. He declined to comment on whether she was pregnant.

Newborns of infected mothers are at risk of microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s brain is smaller than normal. The World Health Organization has confirmed 16 infants with birth defects and five miscarriages with birth defects worldwide.

A study published recently in the journal Cell Stem Cell suggests that the virus could potentially infect the brain cells of human adults, resulting in memory loss.

The ministry continues to advise people who are traveling to endemic areas to wear long-sleeve shirts and use insect sprays to protect them from mosquitoes. It also urges travelers to refrain from sexual contact or to wear a condom for at least eight weeks after returning from such areas.

Expecting mothers should refrain from traveling to endemic areas, it said.

As of Thursday, the WHO recognized transmission of Zika virus in 72 countries and territories since 2007, with infections in 55 nations and territories reported since the beginning of 2015.

The infection has spread through countries in Africa, Central and South America. In the past month, there have been outbreaks in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In Singapore, a group of people was reported to have contracted the disease on Aug. 28, with the number quickly growing to 151 on Sept. 1 and 304 as of last Wednesday.

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