MOH, NEA to step up efforts to prevent Zika outbreak

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said they have been monitoring the Zika virus situation closely and that they will be introducing several measures to enhance surveillance of the disease and to protect Singaporeans.

These include putting up health posters for outbound travellers, raising awareness among the medical community and admitting anyone confirmed to have the virus into a single room at the hospital.

The measures will reduce the risk of importing the Zika virus, facilitate early detection of cases and contain the spread of the disease if it happens here, the agencies said. The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in countries in the Caribbean, Europe and North and South America.

No treatment or vaccine is available.

As Zika is transmitted through mosquitoes, vector control remains the mainstay to prevent transmission of the virus, as it is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also spreads the dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Together with members of the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force, NEA will intensify search and destroy efforts to control the Aedes mosquito population.

There have been no detected cases in Singapore. But in South-east Asia, sporadic Zika cases have been detected in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, east Malaysia and Thailand in recent years. Taiwan reported an imported case of Zika from Thailand on Jan 19.

Travellers to countries with local transmission of the Zika virus should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long, covered clothing, applying insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.

Returning travellers from affected areas are advised to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headache and red eyes.

Pregnant women are advised to reconsider travel plans to countries with ongoing outbreaks and local transmission.

There is increasing evidence of a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and brain malformation in foetuses and infants.

Get MyPaper for more stories.