Zika in Singapore: Watten Estate residents worried; some say mosquitoes a problem there

NEA officers distributing leaflets to residents in Watten Estate, on May 13, 2016.
NEA officers distributing leaflets to residents in Watten Estate, on May 13, 2016. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Residents interviewed around Watten Estate on Friday (May 13) night expressed concern at news that someone living in the area has been diagnosed with Zika virus infection.

Some spoke of how mosquitoes have been prevalent in the area for some time, while others were anxious about whether the virus was a threat to pregnant women.

Watten Hill Condominium resident Emily Luah, 31, who is four months pregnant, said she was alarmed when she heard the news.

 
 

"But I thought, we can do everything and take all the precautions, but sometimes it's hard to cover all the areas," said Ms Luah, an administrative assistant.

 
 

"Even before this Zika case, there's always a lot of mosquitoes in this area," she said.

She said that after she heard the news, she set up a diffuser at home with lemongrass as it is supposed to repel mosquitoes.

Her husband, bank employee Samuel Lim, 33, said: "Just walk one round around the nearby park and you will get 20 mosquito bites." He said the National Environment Agency (NEA) "should do more".

When The Straits Times visited the area at about 9pm, NEA officers were spotted going door-to-door giving out brochures and insect repellent.

They were overheard telling residents that officers will return in the coming days to conduct house visits.

The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue.

The Ministry of Health and NEA announced on Friday evening that a 48-year-old male Singapore permanent resident living in Watten Estate had contracted the virus after travelling to Sao Paulo in Brazil. He was there from March 27 to May 7.

He developed a fever and rash from Tuesday (May 10), was admitted to hospital on Thursday and tested positive for the Zika virus on Friday.

He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment and isolation so as to minimise the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and spreading the infection in the community. He is currently well and recovering.

Banker and investor John Westnedge, 52, who lives in Watten Estate, said it was "surprising and somewhat shocking" to learn that a resident had contracted the virus, and asked The Straits Times if children and adult males were vulnerable as well.

Mr Westnedge, a Singapore permanent resident, said his family members always wear mosquito repellent anyway. "Now it's time to be more aware and take more precautions," he added.

Echoing his views, Ms Marilyn Chia, 44, a lawyer said: "My family and I are all scared. We don't know which house it is. From now we'll use more insect repellent, and also check for stagnant water around the house."

Ms H.M. Pusupa Kanthi Shanthini, 54, a maid, said her employer intends to call pest control to conduct checks every week, instead of twice a month.

"My employer and I are a little worried, but I think we will be safe. We are always careful with mosquitoes."

NEA has also advised residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health.