First Zika case reported in Singapore

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The patient will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment and isolation

Yesterday (13 May), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) reported Singapore's first imported case of the Zika virus.

The patient is a 48-year-old male Singapore Permanent Resident. He had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil from 27 Mar to 7 May and developed a fever and rash on 10 May. He was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on 12 May and has since been isolated.

"The patient tested positive for Zika virus infection on 13 May. He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment and isolation to minimise the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and spreading the infection in the community. The patient is currently well and recovering. He will only be discharged upon being tested negative for the Zika virus," mentioned MOH and NEA in a joint statement.

MOH added that they are screening the patient's household members, and that the patient's residence at Watten Estate is not an active cluster.

NEA had also intensified vector control operations to control the Aedes mosquito population in the area.
Both MOH and NEA stated that they will actively alert residents in the area to seek medical attention should they develop symptoms of fever and rash.

They added: "We advise residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health."

Channel Newsasia has reportedly spoken to the residents of that area and they said that they were "quite alarmed to learn about the Zika virus" and that "there are a lot of mosquitoes in this area. One walk around the nearby park, and you get 20 bites in one minute."

One such resident, 31-year-old Emily Luah, added: "I'm also four months pregnant so I'm quite worried about this, but there are only so many precautions I can take."

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli addressed the issue with a post on his Facebook page which stated: "We need to work together as a community to minimise the risk of any spread of Zika in Singapore and take immediate steps to prevent mosquito breeding in our homes by doing the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout every alternate day, and protect ourselves from mosquito bites by applying insect repellent regularly."

He added: "The patient is currently well and recovering and will be discharged when tested negative for the Zika virus. I wish him a speedy recovery."

 

More about the Zika virus on the next page.

Zika was initially linked with babies being born with microcephaly -- abnormally small skulls and underdeveloped brains. It has since spread widely across South America, especially Brazil.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a global health emergency on 1 Feb and that it needed a coordinated response.

Although sporadic cases of local Zika infection have been detected in several countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand previously, there has been no reported outbreaks in Asia.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong warned in January that preventing the virus from spreading and eventually becoming entrenched in Singapore may be "challenging."

He added that the presence of the Aedes mosquito vector here is one reason for his assessment, and that the mild, non-specific nature of the symptoms in most infected patients would also make surveillance difficult.

Zika was reportedly added to the list of legally notifiable infectious diseases on 24 Jan, and all medical practitioners and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify MOH of suspected and confirmed cases of Zika virus infection within 24 hours.

Precautionary measures such as a clinical advisory group that was set up by MOH were stepped up as well, including sending circulars to doctors and health advisories to travellers to and from Zika-affected countries.

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika yet. Drugmakers are scrambling to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika, but the WHO has said it would take at least 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials.

 

Source: Channel News Asia

Image credit: (Channel News Asia)

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Written by

Aisyah Amin