© AFP | Singapore has a chronic problem with dengue, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika through bites
SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore officials armed with protective suits and insecticide spray cans went door-to-door Monday to wipe out mosquitoes after the discovery of 41 locally transmitted cases of Zika virus alarmed the city-state.
Inspectors from the National Environment Agency visited homes in the suburban district where all the cases — mostly foreign construction workers — were reported, to check for potential breeding sites.
As neighbouring countries took steps to prevent the spread of the disease from Singapore, officers also carried out insecticide fogging operations in the district.
Zika causes only mild symptoms for most people, such as fever and a rash, and has been detected in 58 countries particularly Brazil.
But in pregnant women, it can cause microcephaly, a deformation in which babies are born with abnormally small brains and heads.
Singapore, a densely-populated tropical island with frequent rain, has a chronic problem with dengue, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika through bites from an infected person to another human.
Inspectors checked toilets and other areas for stagnant water that could help mosquitos breed.
Owners of homes found with such sites can be fined up to Sg$5,000 ($3,700).
Contractors also carried out insecticide fogging in public places, pumping a mosquito-killing mist over large areas on the ground.
The government Sunday confirmed the 41 cases, of whom 36 are foreigners working at a condominium construction site.
Work was halted at the site on Saturday after environment agency officers found that housekeeping was “unsatisfactory with potential breeding habitats” for mosquitoes.
Singapore has confirmed 41 cases of the Zika virus which were locally transmitted.
Most of those infected were foreign construction workers, and all lived or worked within the same region of the country, said the health ministry.
None were known to have travelled to Zika-affected areas recently. Thirty-four people have fully recovered but seven are still in hospital.
Zika generally has mild effects but has been linked to severe birth defects.
It is suspected of causing a condition called microcephaly, a deformation in which babies are born with small heads.
Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes but can also be sexually transmitted, was declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization in February.
Fogging being done in Aljunied Crescent yesterday. Of the 41 people here infected with the Zika virus, 34 have fully recovered. The other seven, who still show symptoms and are potentially infectious, are recovering in hospital. All of them either live or work in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Singapore: Number of local Zika cases rises to 41
The number of people in Singapore infected by the Zika virus has gone up, with the Ministry of Health (MOH) saying yesterday that 41, most of whom are foreign construction workers, have tested positive.
Thirty-four have fully recovered. The other seven, who are still showing symptoms and are potentially infectious, are recovering in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. All those infected either live or work in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the number is expected to rise as there is a high likelihood of more local transmissions. He highlighted that there may be Zika carriers who show no symptoms – such as fever, rash and red eyes – and do not seek treatment, but are still infectious.
Yesterday’s update followed news on Saturday that a Malaysian woman living in Aljunied Crescent had tested positive for the Aedes mosquito-borne virus. As she had no travel history to infected countries, it was confirmed as a local transmission, making Singapore the 58th country in the world to report the spread of the disease within its borders. In May, a man returning from Brazil, where Zika is rife, was the first known Zika case here.
But the 47-year-old woman is not the first to catch the infection locally. One of the other 40 people infected was sick a month ago, but even he might not have been the first, the authorities said yesterday.
“They are not known to have travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, and are thus likely to have been infected in Singapore,” they said. “This confirms that local transmission of Zika virus infection has taken place.”
MOH said that at this point, the community transmission appears to be localised within the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster.
Besides the Malaysian woman, who is said to be a worker at a coffee shop at Block 45 in Sims Drive, the other 40 people comprise 36 foreign workers who work at a construction site at 60 Sims Drive and four Singaporean men.
The Singaporean men include a father and son who live in Block 62, Sims Drive. The son is doing his national service at Khatib Camp. MOH is in touch with the Defence Ministry on this and has been told that no one there has symptoms.
Another Singaporean man works at the construction site and lives in Sembawang Drive. The fourth lives at Block 54, Sims Drive.
The foreign workers were among 118 working at the site who were tested. Some either live or work in Kranji Road, Joo Chiat Place, Senoko South Road, Toh Guan Road East and Lorong 101 Changi.
The National Environment Agency is fogging and misting those areas to wipe out Aedes mosquitoes.
Mr Gan said that having Zika here was “almost inevitable”, given the country’s position as a travel hub.
Four in five people infected with Zika do not get sick, and for those who do, the illness is brief, lasting three to four days. By the fifth day, the person is usually no longer infectious. But Zika is a worry because it can be harmful to unborn babies. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, in which the baby is born with an exceptionally small and misshapen head.
MOH is actively testing people living in the affected areas who have symptoms, as well as close contacts of the 41 confirmed cases.
After the initial report on the Malaysian woman, Malaysia’s Health Ministry decided to step up health screenings at Johor checkpoints. Similar screenings will also take place at airports hosting direct flights from Singapore, such as in Penang and Langkawi.
Mr Gan highlighted how eliminating the Aedes mosquito population was the “most important strategy” in the fight against Zika and urged Singaporeans to do their part.