Singapore reports its first Zika virus case

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Aedes aegypti mosquito is the causative agent of Zika fever and Dengue fever Credit: Pixabay

Singapore recorded its first case of Zika infection, when a 48-year-old man who was returning from Sao Polo, Brazil after a two week trip developed fever and rash on Tuesday.

He was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital two days later and kept isolated. When he tested positive for Zika on friday, the MOH and NEA were notified. He  would be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment and isolation and to minimise the chances of spreading the infection. The patient is currently well and recovering. He will only be discharged upon being tested negative for the Zika virus.

Officials are stepping up operations to curb possible transmission in the vicinity of the patient’s home in Watten Estate in the Bukit Timah vicinity which is not an active dengue cluster.

The patient’s household members are being screened now and have been advised to monitor their health and seek medical treatment if unwell. MOH and NEA will also actively alert residents in the vicinity to seek medical attention should they develop symptoms of fever and rash.

The first case of Zika comes amidst a lot of warnings from authorities that a Zika infection case in the Republic of Singapore was inevitable.   In a joint statement yesterday, Ministry Of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) warned that since “the majority of people infected with the virus do not show symptoms, it is possible that some transmission may already have taken place before the first confirmed case of Zika was notified.”

In the statement, MOH urges residents “to cooperate fully with NEA and allow its officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any mosquitoes.” NEA may  also “need to gain entry into inaccessible premises by force after serving of requisite notices, to ensure any breeding habitats are destroyed quickly,” it said.

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Credit: Beth Herlin, Wikimedia Commons

Zika virus fever has similar symptoms to dengue including fever, rash, joint pain, muscle aches, headache, red eyes. However, the disease is “generally a mild and self-limiting illness (though) rare, serious neurological complications have been reported,”says the Health Ministry website.

A virus that was hardly known until a year back, suddenly burst onto the spotlight early this year when there was a sudden increase in Zika virus cases in Brazil and its subsequent transmission to other countries. Brazil also saw an unexpected increase in cases where expectant mothers gave birth to babies with abnormally small heads (microcephaly) and underdeveloped brains.

Since then, Singapore government has been issuing circulars to doctors and public to heighten awareness of the virus. Infact, last month Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor reiterated that an infection in Singapore was unavoidable, given the volume of travel all year round. In the region, East Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam have reported cases of the virus.

Travel and health advisory from the MOH and NEA:

Travellers to countries with local transmission of the Zika virus should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long, covered clothing, applying insect-repellent, and using wire-mesh screens or mosquito nets.

  • Take immediate steps to prevent mosquito breeding in homes, and applying insect repellent regularly.
  • As a precaution, pregnant women should consider postponing non-essential travel to countries with ongoing outbreaks. Pregnant women with a travel history to affected areas who develop symptoms of Zika such as fever and rash should consult their doctors for testing for Zika infection.
  • Those who are returning to Singapore from Zika-affected areas should monitor their health for two weeks and see a doctor if they develop symptoms such as fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes.
  • Male travellers returning from areas with ongoing outbreaks of Zika should adopt safe sexual practices (e.g. consistent and correct use of condoms during sex) or consider abstinence for at least four weeks after their return.  If they are sexual partners of pregnant women, they should adopt these precautions throughout the women’s pregnancy. This is in consistency with the WHO guidelines.

For more information, public can refer to the MOH’s webpage on Zika.

Source: Today Online, MOH press release

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