Singapore

S'pore's first and largest Zika cluster closed, 2 more remain: NEA

S'pore's first and largest Zika cluster closed, 2 more remain: NEA
The Aljunied cluster was the largest Zika cluster in Singapore, with nearly 300 cases. AP file photo.
Published: 5:43 PM, October 18, 2016
Updated: 11:34 PM, October 18, 2016

SINGAPORE — The first and largest locally-transmitted Zika cluster at the Aljunied Crescent / Sims Drive area has been closed, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Oct 18).

The Aljunied cluster had seen 298 cases since Aug 27, when the first cases were reported. The NEA said the cluster was closed on Oct 9 after no new cases were reported there for two weeks. Altogether, 128 mosquito breeding habitats – comprising 60 in homes and 68 in common areas/other premises – were detected and destroyed.

However, the agency will continue to keep the area under close surveillance until Oct 31.

The agency added that sporadic cases of Zika continue to be reported in Singapore, “indicating the presence of the Zika virus within the community”.

Two new cases were reported as of 3pm on Tuesday. Last week, 11 cases were reported as of Saturday, higher than the four cases the week before, but well below the 103 cases in the first week of the outbreak. 

Two active Zika clusters remain: Ubi Avenue 1 and Jalan Chengkak/Jalan Raya. 

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said that Singaporeans still needed to “continue to maintain vigilance”.

“(We need to) ensure that we do not breed mosquitoes at our homes and other premises, as there may still be people in the area who do not display the symptoms of Zika and can fuel the further spread of Zika, if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said the closure of the cluster showed that “if all residents and stakeholders play their part by being vigilant and preventing mosquito breeding within their premises, we can keep Zika cases at bay”.

Doctors told TODAY they have seen a drop in the number of patients who need to be screened for Zika.

Dr Lim Chien Chuan from Sims Drive Medical Centre, one of the doctors who saw the first few cases of Zika in Singapore, said: “When the news about Zika was at its peak, we screened up 10 cases a day of patients with similar symptoms to the virus. But for the last month, it was reduced to almost nothing.”

He added that his patients also seemed to be less worried about possible Zika outbreaks in recent weeks. “Definitely I think the mood has lifted, the patients are less worried about Zika outbreaks. There are less patients voicing their concern about the virus as compared to when the first cases were reported.”

“The closure of Aljunied and Sims Drive cluster is a good example of how when the community and government work together a virus can be controlled. However, I’ll advice patients to continue to stay vigilant,” he added.

Dr Tay Boon Chong of Tay Clinic at 494 Geylang Rd, would previously see “around 30 to 40 people” a week coming to his clinic to be screened for Zika. “But the number has significantly decreased in the last two weeks. Fortunately, they were all negative,” he said.  

However, he said cautioned of the possibility of resurgence. “As sudden as the virus came in, can it recur. No place in this world is immune from this virus.”

Residents in the Aljunied Crescent / Sims Drive area expressed relief at that the area is no longer a Zika cluster.

Housewife Sulaiha Ngatiman, 29, who is due to give birth next month said: “I’m relieved. It’s good that this piece of news came now that I have about one more month to go before I give birth and I don’t need to worry as much.”

She added: “Every mother would be happy and thankful to bring a Zika-free baby into the world.”

The mother of three other sons aged three, seven, nine and 10 said she still continues to keep up anti-breeding practices. “I’m still using the mosquito coil and still turning over pails when they are not in use,” said the Aljunied Crescent resident.  

Student Amalina Yusoff, 18, who was previously diagnosed with Zika, said: “I’m happy that the virus is no longer affecting residents in my area and that the number of Zika cases has gone down.”
  
The Aljunied Crescent resident recovered in September and she and her family continue to take precautionary measures, such as the 5-step Mozzie Wipe-out. “My neighbourhood is one of the cleanest places in Singapore from what I’ve observed, and I certainly hope the virus doesn’t come back,” she said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING CYNTHIA CHOO