Thailand to crack down on Zika breeding spots

Authorities in Thailand seeking to curb the growing number of Zika cases say they will criminally charge homeowners who fail to remove mosquito breeding grounds on their property.

The Public Health Ministry announced Friday it will revive a 1992 law allowing officials to order the removal of decorative ponds or any areas with still water found to foster mosquitoes, which can transmit the Zika virus. Anyone failing to clean up or remove the mosquito breeding grounds can face a jail term of one month and a fine of 2,000-5,000 baht ($57-143).

The ministry said there have been 279 Zika cases in Thailand since the start of the year, including 22 in the capital, Bangkok. Thirty-three were pregnant women.

Zika generally causes a mild flu-like illness, but a major outbreak in Brazil last year revealed that it can lead to severe birth defects when are infected.

In February, the World Health Organization declared the spread of Zika a global emergency.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday updated its advice to travelers, saying they should exercise a "high degree of caution" because of the ongoing transmission of the Zika virus in Thailand. It said measures suggested by the Australian Department of Health included deferring non-essential travel if pregnant.

Mosquitoes are a constant concern in Thailand because they also can transmit malaria, and chikungunya. The Public Health Ministry said mosquitoes usually breed and hunt within a 100-meter (100-yard) radius of their birthing area, and an effective way to prevent a surge of mosquito offspring is to get rid of places with still water every seven days.

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