Man back from Brazil is first Zika case in Singapore

A 48-year-old man who returned from Brazil tested positive for Zika yesterday, making him the first confirmed case of the mosquito-borne virus in Singapore.

The permanent resident, who lives in Watten Estate, in Bukit Timah, travelled to Sao Paulo between March 27 and May 7 and developed fever and rash three days after his return, on Tuesday.

He was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on Thursday and isolated, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint statement on the imported infection. He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for treatment. They said he is currently well and recovering but will be discharged only after he is clear of the virus.

Though he is the first patient to be confirmed, they noted it is possible some transmission may have occurred before now, as the majority of people infected with the virus do not show symptoms. Passed through the Aedes mosquito's bite, Zika causes mostly mild symptoms, but is allegedly linked to microcephaly in newborn infants, a rare condition characterised by abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

MOH and NEA said residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium have been advised to monitor their health and seek medical help if they develop symptoms such as fever and rash.

Though Watten Estate is not an active dengue cluster, NEA will step up vector control operations in the areas around the patient's home. This includes inspection of premises, measures to kill adult mosquitoes through misting and fogging, and outreach to the public through the distribution of information leaflets and insect repellents. MOH is also screening his household members.

The Zika virus has swept the Latin American and Caribbean region - with Brazil being the most affected so far, and Singapore has anticipated it would receive imported cases.

In February, an infectious disease expert said it was unlikely Zika would spread in the same way in Singapore, as anyone with a confirmed infection would be isolated until he no longer has the virus. Dr Lim Poh Lian of TTSH said then that Zika is likely to be similar to chikungunya, another mosquito-borne illness first seen here in 2008, but whose numbers have remained low.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Sim Ann said on Facebook: "I hope he recovers fully and quickly. In the meantime, our grassroots will give NEA full support in conducting house visits and engaging our residents."

This article was first published on May 14, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.