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Second pregnant woman found to have Zika, 36 more confirmed cases

SINGAPORE — While the Zika strain in local infections is still yet to be analysed — a process that will take weeks or months to complete — the authorities have assessed that it is likely to have come from the region, as 36 more cases were confirmed on Thursday (Sept 1), including a second pregnant woman.

Second pregnant woman found to have Zika, 36 more confirmed cases

A NEA worker conducts thermal fogging during a demonstration at the Paya Lebar Way area on vector control operations and inspection of premises to check for mosquito breeding at the Paya Lebar Way area on Sept 1, 2016. Photo: Nuria Ling

SINGAPORE — While the Zika strain in local infections is still yet to be analysed — a process that will take weeks or months to complete — the authorities have assessed that it is likely to have come from the region, as 36 more cases were confirmed on Thursday (Sept 1), including a second pregnant woman. 

The cases have also spread further afield, with three of the new cases in Tagore Avenue, Yishun Street 81 and Harvey Crescent. 

Speaking during a joint briefing at by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) at MacPherson Community Club on Thursday, Dr Derrick Heng, group director for Public Health at MOH, pointed out that Zika is present in 57 other countries.

“If you factor in the travel volume, it is more likely that the virus came from within the region rather than from far away… But we decline to speculate further until the lab results are out,” he said.

In an update on Thursday night, the MOH said 31 of the 36 cases were new, and five were “look-back” cases — cases that were previously reported to have shown symptoms but were not tested for Zika. The ministry also said the look-back exercise has been completed. 

A total of 236 samples were taken for the look-back exercise, of which 52 tested positive. Including the look-back cases, the number of locally-transmitted Zika cases in Singapore stands at 151. 

The MOH said the pregnant woman whose case was confirmed on Thursday is linked to the Aljunied Crescent-Sims Drive cluster. “Her doctor is following up closely with her to provide support and counselling,” the ministry said.

The active transmission here has led to several countries issue advisories cautioning on travel to Singapore, among them Indonesia, Australia, and the United States. As of Wednesday noon, 57 of the infected are foreigners who live and work in Singapore. These comprise 10 Bangladeshis, 23 Chinese, 15 Indians, one Indonesian, six Malaysians, one from Myanmar, and one from Taiwan.

Commenting on the factors that could have contributed to the spread of Zika in Singapore, Infectious diseases expert Professor Leo Yee Sin, who was at the media briefing, said a “naive” population — a term used to describe a population lacks immunity — like Singapore’s would be more suspectible, as fewer have been treated for Zika.

Having a vector population like Aedes mosquitoes, along with Singapore’s highly “open environment” and high human traffic could have spurred the faster spread of Zika, she added.

On whether the virus has undetected remained in recovered patients, Prof Leo said that Zika is relatively new to the scientific world, and to more time is needed to carry out “intense research”.  

“From what we know, a person who has Zika can overcome the infections, the immunity should stay within in them… Whether or not some part of the body will hold the virus for some time… Zika is new in Singapore, and we have the research community, and all of us are hungry to know about Zika in Singapore,” she said.

Mr Derek Ho, director-general of public health at NEA, noted that Singapore is still in the midst of its traditional peak dengue season, and stressed that for now, the key to tackling the problem is vector control targeting the “outbreak areas”, and looking at potential breeding sites like construction sites.

Apart from the Aljunied Crescent-Sims Drive and the Paya Lebar Way-Kallang Way clusters, the NEA also conducted vector control operations and outreach efforts in Bedok North Avenue 3, Punggol Way and Joo Seng on Thursday. 

Asked whether the Zika outbreak had reached epidemic levels and if emergency measures are needed, Mr Ho said there was “no need to press the panic button”.

“As long as we have got the vector control, we need to continue with these efforts to ensure the mosquito vector is kept under control,” he said.

As suspect cases continued to be tested for Zika on Thursday, patients were kept waiting in separate quarters as they waited for test results, which typically take three to four hours.  

Retiree Tam Ying Chee, however, found himself waiting far longer. Discovering that he had broken out in rashes at around 8am on Thursday, the 52-year-old headed to Geylang Polyclinic, and was transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC) for tests. His test was done by 2pm but as of 10.30pm last night, he was still awaiting the results in a private ward at the CDC.

The Paya Lebar Way resident was unperturbed by the wait. “They said from two to three hours, then maybe four to eight hours, then maybe tomorrow.. But (it’s fine),” he said.


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