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Singapore to step up surveillance for Zika virus

SINGAPORE — As it is “inevitable” that the Zika virus will eventually be imported to Singapore, authorities are stepping up measures to detect and potentially control infections, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint statement today (Jan 27).

Singapore to step up surveillance for Zika virus

A health worker shows larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes found inside a warehouse during an operation to combat the mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Photo: AP

SINGAPORE — As it is “inevitable” that the Zika virus will eventually be imported to Singapore, authorities are stepping up measures to detect and potentially control infections, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint statement today (Jan 27).

In the wake of recent outbreaks in South America and a case reported in Taiwan, the MOH and NEA advised travellers to countries with local transmission of the Zika virus to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Pregnant women should reconsider their travel plans to countries with ongoing outbreaks and local transmission, given the increasing evidence of a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and brain malformation in their foetuses and infants, they said.  

The agencies also said returning travellers from affected areas should seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of Zika such as fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes and posters will be placed at airports to serve as reminders.

Since 2013, the NEA has had an ongoing surveillance programme for the virus, and no cases have been detected in Singapore so far, but the possibility of undetected cases could not be ruled out as most infected persons may display mild or no symptoms, NEA and MOH said. 

Zika virus infections have also been added to the List of Notifiable Infectious Diseases under the Infectious Diseases Act, while the MOH is raising awareness of such infections among the medical community. Any confirmed cases will be admitted to a single room at a public hospital until they recover and test negative for the virus, to minimise the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes while they are carrying the virus, which is also transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. 

Asked about such infections in Parliament today, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said if any Zika cases are found here, the NEA will step up its vector control activities around the case area. But, he stressed that stamping out the breeding of mosquitoes is key to reducing such threats. “If we are effective with this, we can also stop Zika from spreading when it comes to Singapore,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LOUISA TANG

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