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Zika Outbreak In Singapore: The Good News And The Bad News

With the myriad reports about the Zika outbreak in Singapore flooding in, some are optimistic about how health authorities and the community are handling the situation, while some send you into a state of panic.

Here’s the latest scoop – the good and the bad.

 

The bad news

The Zika virus is likely here to stay, with cases popping up from time to time just like dengue, which is also carried by the Aedes mosquito.

With the presence of Aedes mosquitoes here, a high population density and the fact that infected individuals do not exhibit symptoms, it is “not surprising” that cases will pop up from time to time, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday.

“We do expect that we will continue to have Zika virus cases over time, just like dengue,” she said, noting that Zika is endemic to some countries in the region.

While she did not name any country, Thailand is one country that has had Zika cases in past years. In the first half of this year, it had 97 Zika cases.

 

The good news

The Zika virus behind an outbreak in Singapore likely evolved from a strain which was already circulating in South-east Asia, scientists here have found out.

The Ministry of Health said the National Public Health Laboratory has worked with A*Star’s Bioinformatics Institute to complete the sequencing of the Zika virus found in two patients from the first cluster in Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive. The analysis found that the virus belongs to the Asian lineage and likely evolved from the strain already circulating in this region.

This means that it was probably not imported from South America, where Zika has been linked with microcephaly – a serious condition which affects unborn children. 

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said: “I need to look at the data more closely. But given that it’s distanced from the Brazil virus, then certainly the likelihood of microcephaly here will be more distant.”

Singaporeans should try to continue with life as normally as possible despite Zika now being locally transmitted here.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday highlighted that the World Health Organisation on Friday described Singapore’s efforts against Zika as an example for other countries to follow.

He said that this has affirmed Singapore’s “promptness and transparency in the Zika episode”.

That being said, experts still stressed the need to continue eliminating the Aedes mosquito, which spreads the Zika virus.

 

By Carolyn Khew & Melissa Lin, The Straits Times, 4 & 5 September 2016

 

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