Parliament: Singapore's Zika efforts started two years ago

NEA officers putting granular pesticides in stagnant water in Siglap on Sept 8, 2016.
NEA officers putting granular pesticides in stagnant water in Siglap on Sept 8, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

For the past two years, well before the Zika virus came to its shores, Singapore has been preparing itself to fight it, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Parliament yesterday.

A surveillance programme for the virus was put in place two years ago, when the virus started hitting some parts of the world. Some 200 clinics began collecting blood samples from patients with Zika-like symptoms, Mr Gan said.

In January, Zika was made a notifiable infection so that the Ministry of Health (MOH) would be immediately alerted if any doctor or laboratory detected a case.

Close to 4,000 samples were tested between February and August - and all were negative until the first locally transmitted case was diagnosed on Aug 27.

Since then, 333 people have been infected, including eight pregnant women, and seven Zika clusters found. But for the first time since Aug 27, no new cases were announced yesterday.

Mr Gan said the jump in the number of cases - from one on Aug 27 to 41 the following day - had raised some questions."In reality, the number of confirmed new Zika-positive patients, and I repeat new cases, increased only to five," he said. The other 36 cases surfaced because of back-tracking efforts.

The focus now is on efforts to eradicate the Aedes mosquito.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that between Aug 27 and Sept 11, more than 31,000 premises were inspected and more than 200 mosquito-breeding sites destroyed. The authorities have also broken into 24 premises to look for breeding sites.

Pregnant women, whose unborn foetus can be damaged by Zika, will still be treated as a special group. Those showing Zika symptoms will be tested free of charge. Those who have the virus will be monitored through their pregnancy.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore's Zika efforts started two years ago'. Print Edition | Subscribe