Zika Virus Outbreak Reaches Asia: Singapore Will Provide Free Testing For Women With High Zika Risk

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald September 01, 04:03 am

Singapore is stepping up its fight against the Zika virus outbreak after more than 80 locally transmitted cases were reported. The city-state's health ministry is urging women with high Zika risk to get tested even though they don't feel symptoms associated with the virus.

Singapore now has 82 locally transmitted cases of Zika, BBC reported. The mosquito-borne virus outbreak originated in Brazil but has since spread in the Americas and in the state of Florida, USA.

Zika is most harmful to pregnant women's developing fetus. Babies infected with Zika can have eye problems, hearing loss, and microcephaly, a congenital condition where the head is abnormally small and the brain's development is incomplete, Parent Herald previously reported.

The original Zika virus cluster in Singapore is situated in the Aljunied district in the southeast, occurring among migrant construction workers. Production and sales of insect repellents and insecticides have risen as well.

Health officials in the city-state fear that the number of cases would progress quickly, which is why they have begun fumigating public areas and are carrying out home inspections for possible mosquito breeding grounds. Singapore's National Environmental Agency (NEA) said in a statement that fines and penalties will be served to areas that have lapsed in regular inspections to remove mosquito breeding grounds, which usually occurs in small containers.

Singapore's health ministry recommended pregnant women with symptoms of Zika to get tested. The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, joint pain, rash, conjunctivitis or red eyes, headache, and muscle pain, according to the CDC.

They also advised women with male partners confirmed to have Zika to get tested even if they don't feel any symptoms of the virus and "regardless of whether they have been to Zika-affected areas." Many people infected with Zika only exhibit mild symptoms or don't show them at all.

Singapore's health ministry said testing for the abovementioned women will be free, but is "not routinely recommended for other pregnant women." A blood or urine test can confirm if a person is infected with Zika.

Aedes mosquitoes, the main culprit behind the Zika transmission, thrive in Singapore, NBC News reported. The mosquito specimen also spreads dengue virus, which the country also struggled with.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said disease outbreaks in Singapore are hard to control because of the country's tight system for regulating diseases. The NEA said all confirmed Zika cases in the country will be confined to a public hospital until they recover and the virus has been removed from their system.

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