Malaysia confirms first case of Zika in a pregnant woman

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen inside a test tube as part of a research on preventing the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases at a control and prevention center in Guadalupe, neighbouring Monterrey, Mexico, March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia on Wednesday confirmed its first case of the Zika virus in a pregnant woman, a 27-year-old living in a southern city next to the city-state of Singapore.

Zika infections in pregnant women have been shown to cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the head and brain are undersized, besides other brain abnormalities.

Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said the woman, who is three- to four-months pregnant, lives in the southern city of Johor Bahru, next to Singapore which has reported a total of 275 cases so far.

Her husband, who works in Singapore, had also showed symptoms of Zika and was undergoing tests.

“It’s still unclear whether the woman contracted the disease from her husband or whether it was locally transmitted,” Subramaniam told a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital.

Last week, Malaysia confirmed the first imported case of Zika in a 58-year-old woman who had visited Singapore. On Saturday, it confirmed the first case of a locally transmitted Zika infection.

Subramaniam said Malaysia was expecting to see more cases in Johor Bahru because of its closeness to Singapore. About 200,000 Malaysians commute daily from Johor to the city-state.

Although microcephaly is typically detected during ultrasounds in the late second and early third trimester of pregnancy, these findings can be detected as early as 18-20 weeks gestation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Nick Macfie