I didn't even know what Zika was, says shocked wife of patient

Madam Ratnawati Yusoff thought the rashes on her husband's body were caused by an allergic reaction of some kind. Her husband had developed a fever followed by rashes last week.
Madam Ratnawati Yusoff thought the rashes on her husband's body were caused by an allergic reaction of some kind. Her husband had developed a fever followed by rashes last week.ST PHOTO: RACHEL OH

When Madam Ratnawati Yusoff, 52, first saw rashes covering her husband's body last Thursday, she thought it was caused by an unknown allergic reaction.

"It was all over his face, body and thighs," said Madam Ratnawati, who takes care of her husband Mohammed Firdaus Lim, 44, a stroke patient. He is unable to walk and communicate verbally and had not left home - a one-room flat in Sims Drive - in more than two weeks.

Mr Firdaus had developed a fever on Aug 23 - two days prior to the rashes. But the fever subsided after he took Panadol the same day.

It was the outbreak of the rashes that prompted Madam Ratnawati to take her husband to Tan Tock Seng Hospital last Thursday. They were accompanied by their daughter Nur Sharmeela, 22. While Madam Ratnawati had wanted to get her husband checked at a nearby clinic, her daughter suggested going to the hospital as "the clinic might refer him there anyway".

There, doctors ran blood tests and observed him for dengue until the evening. It was 7pm when he was cleared and sent home with medication for his rashes. "The doctor said there was nothing wrong," said Madam Ratnawati. Despite taking the medication, the rashes persisted.

Two days later, Madam Ratnawati was shopping in Balestier with her husband and other daughter, Mrs Huzieanawaty Hussain, 32, when she received a phone call from the hospital at about 5pm. She got a shock when a doctor told her that her husband might be infected with the Zika virus: "At that time, I didn't even know what Zika was."

They rushed to the hospital, where Mr Firdaus' blood and urine were tested. The virus was found in his urine and he was immediately sent to the Communicable Disease Centre where he was warded.

"Of course I was very upset that it wasn't detected earlier," said Madam Ratnawati.

On Sunday night, National Environment Agency officers checked Madam Ratnawati's home for mosquitoes and conducted fogging at her block the next day.

Health Ministry officers also came by her home on Monday - after Mr Firdaus was discharged - to collect samples of her urine for testing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'I didn't even know what Zika was, says shocked wife of patient'. Print Edition | Subscribe