South East Asia on Zika alert as Singapore infections mount

On Wednesday, Singapore said it had identified 22 new Zika cases in one particular area of the city and its first case involving a pregnant woman.
A pest control worker fumigates a residential compound in the Bedok North area of Singapore. Twenty-two new Zika cases were reported on Wednesday in one area of the city. Roslan Rahman / AFP
A pest control worker fumigates a residential compound in the Bedok North area of Singapore. Twenty-two new Zika cases were reported on Wednesday in one area of the city. Roslan Rahman / AFP

JAKARTA // Indonesia is screening travellers from neighbouring Singapore for the mosquito-borne Zika virus as the city-state reports a growing number of infections and its first case of a pregnant woman testing positive.

Indonesian health officials are recommending that the foreign ministry issue an advisory against non-essential travel to Singapore, particularly for pregnant women, health ministry spokesman Oscar Primadi said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Singapore said it had identified 22 new Zika cases in one particular area of the city and its first case involving a pregnant woman.

Zika has mild effects for most people but doctors believe that infection during pregnancy can result in babies with small heads – a condition known as microcephaly – and other serious developmental disorders. Singapore had 155 cases as of Wednesday.

The US centres for disease control and prevention is advising travellers to Singapore to take precautions such as protecting themselves against mosquito bites, and, because the virus can also be sexually transmitted, to use condoms or not have sex.

Mr Primadi said thermal imaging equipment to detect abnormal body temperatures was installed at eight Indonesian ports with routes serving Singapore, including Jakarta’s airport.

Travellers will also be given a health questionnaire so that they recognise symptoms and know to immediately report to health authorities, he said.

Malaysia’s health ministry said on Thursday that a 58-year-old woman who travelled to Singapore had become its first Zika case.

Health minister S Subramaniam said the woman and her husband visited Singapore for three days from August 19. The woman developed a rash a week after her return and later tested positive for Zika in her urine, he said. Her daughter in Singapore tested positive for Zika on Tuesday.

“We can conclude that it is rather easy to get infected by the virus when visiting places that has outbreak, including Singapore,” he said. “Proactive action from the community can help stop the spread of Zika virus in Malaysia.”

Mr Subramaniam said the virus was believed to be imported from Singapore because the woman started experiencing symptoms on the same day as her daughter.

The ministry has started control activities such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites and fog spraying in the patient’s residential area and other places she had visited.

Indonesia has not yet reported any local Zika infections but an Indonesian woman in Singapore is among those infected there.

* Associated Press

Published: September 1, 2016 04:00 AM

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