Pregnant women with Zika symptoms advised by MOH to be tested for the virus

A public service announcement banner against the spread of Aedes mosquitoes at a residential block at Aljunied Crescent neighbourhood in Singapore on Aug 29, 2016.
A public service announcement banner against the spread of Aedes mosquitoes at a residential block at Aljunied Crescent neighbourhood in Singapore on Aug 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry is urging all pregnant women here with symptoms of Zika (fever and rash and other symptoms such as red eyes or joint pain), as well as those with male partners who are Zika-positive to be tested for the virus.

This is regardless of whether they have been to Zika-affected areas.

Testing for pregnant women referred by their doctors, and who meet these criteria, is free. This is the current practice for those with symptoms and who live, work or study in a Zika-affected area, and need to be tested.

The Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) on Zika and Pregnancy, led by Professor Arijit Biswas, had met on Tuesday (Aug 30) and updated the guidelines following the localised community spread of Zika virus infection in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area.

These guidelines are in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) and are being shared with obstetricians and gynaecologists, and neonatology and paediatric specialists in hospitals, as well as all polyclinics and general practitioners, said MOH.

While there is currently no evidence that women are more likely to be infected with the Zika virus, the foetus of a pregnant woman may suffer from microcephaly - in which the head size is much smaller than usual.

There is no specific treatment for this condition.

Pregnant women who do not have any symptoms of Zika will be monitored for the duration of their pregnancy as part of their routine prenatal care, MOH added. For those who are concerned, their obstetricians and gynaecologists may offer regular foetal ultrasounds to check on the foetus' health.

If a pregnant patient is confirmed to be infected with the Zika virus, she will be referred to a maternal-foetal medicine specialist for counselling and advice. The obstetricians and gynaecologists may recommend regular ultrasounds to monitor foetal growth and look out for abnormalities.

MOH will also arrange for her to be admitted to a public hospital for further management and care if necessary.

However, a positive Zika test does not mean that the foetus is infected or harmed. Depending on the population studied and the research methodology, the estimated risk of microcephaly associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy can vary widely.

The prevention of Zika virus infection is the best protection for both the pregnant woman and her foetus, said MOH's advisory. Pregnant women should take precautions against mosquito bites and seek medical attention immediately if they become symptomatic.

Although Zika virus infection remains a predominantly vector-borne disease, a small number of cases of sexual transmission have been documented. Potentially exposed males with female partners who are pregnant should practise safe sex through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or abstinence, for the duration of their female partner's pregnancy.

Women with confirmed Zika virus infection should abstain from sexual intercourse for at least eight weeks after recovery. Men with confirmed Zika virus infection but whose female partner is not pregnant should also adopt safe sexual practices.

 

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Aug 30) evening that extra fogging is done by Marina Parade Town Council in Aljunied Crescent, on top of what the NEA has done or planned. She also shared the Health Ministry's advisory for pregnant women with mums-to-be in her constituency.

On Saturday (Aug 27), it was revealed that a 47-year-old woman living in Aljunied Crescent was the first locally transmitted case of Zika. The area is part of MacPherson constituency.