Singapore takes extra precautions against virus

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) will take additional precautions against the Zika virus in the light of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) move on Monday to declare it an international public health emergency.

One of these is to expand the capability to test for the virus to public hospital laboratories, said the agencies in a joint statement yesterday.

Testing of blood samples for suspected Zika virus is currently done at the National Public Health Laboratory.

Also, because of the virus' link to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, the MOH will set up a clinical advisory group to provide expert advice on the management of pregnant women infected with the virus.

The statement said the additional measures are in line with recommendations by the WHO.

Prior to the declaration, the MOH and NEA had already put in place preventative measures.

These included admitting confirmed cases to a public hospital, issuing circulars to doctors to teach them how to test for and deal with suspected cases, and issuing health advisories to travellers to and from affected countries on how to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

The agencies emphasised that vector control remains the mainstay of prevention against the mosquito-borne disease.

They urged the public to prevent mosquito breeding by practising the five-step Mozzie Wipeout weekly. This includes turning over all water storage containers and changing water in vases and bowls on alternate days.

Though no case of Zika has reached Singapore yet, the authorities believe it is only a matter of time before one is imported.

Zika is spreading widely in South America, with Brazil reporting the largest outbreak.

Travellers returning to Singapore from affected areas, such as countries in Central and South America, are advised to consult a doctor if they show symptoms such as fever, rashes, red eyes, and joint and muscle pain.

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2016.
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