Singapore confirms first Zika case

SINGAPORE, May 13 — The Zika virus has reached Singapore. The Republic’s first imported case of the disease that has sparked international concern involves a 48-year-old permanent resident who returned from Brazil last week.

According to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) tonight, the man developed fever and rash from May 10, three days after he returned from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he had stayed since March 27.

The PR, who stays at the Watten Estate off Dunearn Road, tested positive for Zika today. He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment. He will also be isolated, the MOH-NEA statement said, “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,” the statement said.

The Health Ministry is screening the Zika patient’s household members, and advised residents in the neighbourhood to seek medical attention if they develop tell-tale symptoms like fever and rash.

“We advise residents of Watten Estate, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health,” MOH and NEA said. “They should seek medical attention if unwell, especially if they develop symptoms such as fever and rash. They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence.”

Zika, like dengue, is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. According to information on the Health Ministry’s website, the disease is “generally a mild and self-limiting illness (though) rare, serious neurological complications have been reported”.

The virus burst onto the international spotlight earlier this year due to its explosive growth in the Americas, particularly in Brazil where mothers infected with Zika have given birth to babies with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, and has advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas.

The Health Ministry urged those returning to Singapore from Zika-affected areas to monitor their health for the next two weeks and see a doctor if they have develop symptoms like fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes.

The ministry and NEA also urged the public to help minimise the potential spread of Zika by taking immediate steps to prevent mosquito breeding in homes, and applying insect repellent regularly.

The NEA said it has deployed more officers and intensified its vector control operations around Watten Estate, where the first Zika patient had been staying. The agency has also begun outreach efforts and distributed information leaflets on Zika to residents living in the area.

The NEA called for public cooperation as they stepped up efforts to destroy mosquito breeding grounds. The agency warned that it may forcibly enter some inaccessible premises after serving the requisite notices.

“As 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,” the joint MOH-NEA statement said. “Hence, even as NEA conducts operations to contain the transmission of the Zika virus, residents are urged to cooperate fully with NEA and allow its officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any mosquitoes.”

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry advised pregnant women to put off non-essential travel to countries with active Zika outbreaks. Those who have travelled to affected areas should consult their doctors for testing of Zika, if they develop symptoms like fever and rash.

Men returning from areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks should practise safe sex, or consider abstaining from sex for at least four weeks after their return to Singapore, the ministry added.

Singaporeans can refer to the MOH’s webpage on Zika for more information. — TODAY


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