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Singapore scrambles to contain Zika but warns of more cases to come

30 August 2016

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed 41 cases of locally-transmitted Zika in a joint press conference on Sunday with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Inspectors from the National Environment Agency checking for mosquito breeding sites visited homes in the suburban district where 41 cases―mostly foreign workers at a condominium construction project―were reported at the weekend.

Singapore had Saturday reported its first case of local transmission of the virus, a Malaysian 47 years.

In Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is closely monitoring 41 additional local cases of Zika Virus Infection in Singapore, and urged the public to adopt strict anti-mosquito measures and safe sex during travel.

Channel News Asia quoted Gan as saying that this is partly because the ministry is conducting tests in affected areas, as well as the possibility that there could be imported cases in future.

Thirty-four of the confirmed patients in Singapore have been recovered completely, while seven are still at hospital.

Zika is primarily transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, and many countries in South America have been experiencing outbreaks of the virus - with Brazil being particularly hard hit since reporting its first case in May 2015.

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In the United States, the CDC has reported 584 confirmed cases of pregnant women contracting Zika through August 18, though most of those are travel related infections.

36 of these cases were foreigners working at a construction site in the Aljunied neighbourhood in the south-east of the island. The country will be inspecting residential premises and spraying insecticide to contain the spread of mosquito-borne pathogens responsible for chikungunya and dengue diseases.

The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, which causes unusually small heads and brain damage in children born to infected mothers. The ministry has also distributed flyers related to the prevention of a Zika infection, and paramedic teams have been deployed at entry points in Johor to handle visitors with potential symptoms of an infection.

"We are also screening workers staying at the dormitories located in the areas of concern", the authorities were quoted as saying. Infected patients show mild or no symptoms, making the virus hard to detect.

"We expect to identity more positive cases", it said.

This prompted a check by health ministry experts, who told doctors to refer new cases to the government-run Communicable Diseases Center.

The look-back exercise would likely uncover more previously undiagnosed cases of Zika, it added. It became evident that the virus has transmitted locally as none of those infected had recently traveled to a place with Zika outbreak.