Singapore’s National Environment Agency has deployed more than 200 officers on a search and destroy mission into areas considered possible mosquito breeding grounds, after health authorities confirmed that the Zika virus has arrived and is spreading.
The officers are flushing out drains and blasting insecticide into likely sites, while others hand out leaflets and insect repellent.
The country expects more cases of locally transmitted Zika virus after 41 cases were confirmed at the weekend, mostly among foreign construction workers.
On Saturday, a 47-year-old Malaysian woman living in southeastern Singapore was confirmed as Singapore’s first case of local transmission.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an advisory update yesterday: “There is ongoing transmission of Zika virus in Singapore. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. Adopt additional measures advised by the Department of Health, including deferring non-essential travel if pregnant, avoiding pregnancy for two months following your return and other advice for both males and females.”
DFAT already recommends that visitors to Singapore take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, “including by using insect repellent, wearing long, light coloured, loose-fitting clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof”.
Zika produces little or no symptoms in most people (only one in five victims feels sick), but some can fall ill with fever. In Brazil the virus has been linked to microcephaly, a rare but severe birth defect in which babies are born with small heads and mental retardation. Because of that, the virus poses a special risk to pregnant women.
Singapore already maintains a constant vigil against mosquitos in its continuing battle against dengue fever.
Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever, chikungunya fever and Japanese encephalitis occur in the city-state, particularly during the wetter months (from November to March and from July to September).
Singapore said there were “ongoing local transmission” cases in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Other countries in the region to have detected Zika vsince 2013 include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives and the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.
A list of Zika affected countries and degrees of risk can be found on the Australian Department of Health website. The list is updated regularly but did not include Singapore when checked yesterday (Monday 29 August 2016).
Written by Peter Needham in Bangkok