The dreaded Zika is back in Singapore in 2017 and THIS is what you need to know!

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Zika is back in Singapore in 2017, and the first cluster has just been confirmed. What do pregnant women need to take care of?

The Zika virus has reared its ugly head in Singapore again, and the first cluster has just been reported in Hougang.

Zika is back in Singapore

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has confirmed 2 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in Singapore. Both cases were from Simon Place, near Kovan, Hougang, and both belonged to the same household. The NEA were notified about this cluster on 28 March, and they have already commenced preventive and control operations.

Premises at Simon Place and neighbouring areas continue to be checked for mosquito breeding. So far 10 breeding habitats have been detected and destroyed. Thermal fogging and misting have also been carried out at the outdoor areas, and insecticides have been sprayed indoors.

A cluster is formed when at least 2 cases of an infectious disease are reported within 14 days, and are located within 150m of each other.

The NEA also writes, "Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, which heightens the risk of a Zika resurgence as it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected. With the presence of the Aedes mosquito vector here, everyone must therefore continue to maintain vigilance and play his part to prevent future localised transmission through eradicating mosquito breeding habitats in our neighbourhoods."

What Zika means for pregnant women

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease which is transmitted through the Aedes mosquito, also responsible for dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Most people infected with Zika virus will have mild flu-like symptoms or may not show any symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Muscle pain

However, for a pregnant woman, zika virus has far reaching implications. Here is what every pregnant woman needs to know when there is a threat of zika virus in the area:

  • Zika is linked to birth defects: Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious neurological birth defect called microcephaly, wherein there is a considerable reduction in the size of the baby's head. Such babies will have developmental issues, poor growth, poor feeding, seizures, mental retardation or brain damage. However, do note that not all Zika infected pregnant mums will have babies with microcephaly. The risk for damage to foetuses in pregnant women infected with Zika is significantly higher in the first trimester.

Cases of microcephaly reported in other countries

  • Pregnant women should avoid travelling to Zika hit areas.
  • Protect yourself against mosquito bites: The NEA recommends 'The 5 step Mozzie wipeout'. Turn the pail, tip the vase, flip the flower pot plate, loosen the hardened soil and clear the roof gutter and place Bti insecticide. The whole idea is to prevent any form of stagnant water, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 

When going out, use a mosquito repellant spray or stick on a mosquito repellent patch. Look for deet-free products which are safe to use. Also try to wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants when outside.

  • Zika also spreads through sex: Associate Professor Chan Shiao-Yng, Consultant, NUH Women’s Centre, tells theAsianparent, "Individuals working, studying or living in an affected area who are sexual partners of pregnant women should adopt safe sexual practices (e.g. consistent and correct use of condoms during sex) or consider abstinence throughout the women’s pregnancy."

"Pregnant women who have had sexual intercourse with their male partner who tested positive for Zika should consult a doctor and inform him/her of possible exposure to Zika so that he/she can arrange for Zika testing."

Test for Zika in Singapore

According to Associate Professor Chan Shiao-Yng, "Currently, the only reliable test available for Zika is the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test which looks for genetic material of the virus in the blood or urine. However, RT-PCR test is only able to detect Zika infection in blood within 5-7 days of onset of symptoms, and in urine within 14 days of onset. Therefore, the time window in which a pregnant woman can be tested using RT-PCR is very short.

At present, there is no reliable serological test (which looks for antibodies in the blood) for Zika."

Zika in Singapore

According to Today, the first case of Zika in Singapore was reported in August 2016. By the end of 2016, about 17 pregnant women were reported to have been infected with Zika in Singapore.

None of the 4 babies born in late 2016 to Zika-infected mums showed any signs of abnormalities. Other foetuses also appeared to be healthy during screening. The Ministry of Health will be tracking the development of these babies until they are 3.

Also READ: How Zika affects babies and children

(Source: NEA, CDCThe Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia, Today)

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