Singapore is "extremely vulnerable" to the Zika virus, which is spreading throughout Central and South America
Potential local reach
It was reported that any outbreak in Singapore could potentially overshadow the large number of dengue cases seen this year.
Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, with symptoms usually lasting under a week, but in pregnant women, the virus can spread to the fetus and cause brain shrinkage or death.
With globalisation, Prof Wilder-Smith said it is a matter of time before the first imported case of Zika virus is found in Singapore.
It was further recommended that doctors should start documenting the travel history of patients with fever, and test them for the Zika virus should they test negative for dengue.
How does it spread?
The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which is also responsible for transmitting dengue.
Though there are no cases of Zika virus in Singapore to date, it may still eventually spread in Singapore due to the record high temperatures. The virus has symptoms similar to dengue and chikungunya, such as fever with or without a rash, joint pains and headaches.
Unlike dengue, the virus has not been associated with deaths in adults. It however causes brain damage to fetuses due to the presence of microcephaly. The disease may also be associated with the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological condition.
Guidelines for pregnant women
In Brazil, about 1.5 million people are thought to have contracted the virus, almost as many as those who have contracted dengue.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued guidelines for doctors caring for pregnant women during the Zika outbreak. The new guidelines urge doctors to ask their pregnant patients about their travel history to areas with Zika virus transmission.
Women who had travelled to regions in which Zika virus is active and who report symptoms during or within two weeks of travel should be offered a test for Zika virus infection.
Pregnant women who had no clinical symptoms associated with the infection such be offered an ultrasound to check the fetus’ head size or check for calcium, two signs of microcephaly.