US joins growing list of countries that have issued travel warnings to Singapore due to Zika virus

A banner warning against the dangers posed by the Aedes mosquito, a carrier for the Zika virus, at an Aljunied Crescent neighbourhood.
A banner warning against the dangers posed by the Aedes mosquito, a carrier for the Zika virus, at an Aljunied Crescent neighbourhood. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The United States has joined South Korea, Australia and Taiwan in warning pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant to avoid travel to Singapore, as the confirmed cases of Zika virus in the Republic rose to 82.

On Tuesday (Aug 30), the US warned pregnant women not to travel to Singapore, joining the growing list of countries issuing such advisories.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said it had added Singapore to its interim travel guidance list, following reports of Zika infections in the country.

The CDC recommended that travellers to Singapore protect themselves from mosquito bites and warned that sexual transmission of Zika virus is also possible, according to a statement on its website.

Australia, Taiwan and South Korea advised pregnant women and those attempting to get pregnant to avoid travel to Singapore.

South Korean travellers will receive text messages with the warning when they arrive in Singapore.

In a statement on its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, the Australian government warned travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites while in Singapore.

"Adopt additional measures advised by the Department of Health, including deferring non-essential travel if pregnant, avoiding pregnancy for two months following your return and other advice for both males and females," it added.

Taiwan's Centres for Disease Control on Monday raised the travel notice level for Singapore to Level 2, citing the potential risk of Zika transmission here. It urged pregnant women to postpone their trips to Singapore, and for travellers to avoid mosquito bites.

On its website, the British government's foreign travel advice for travelling to Singapore was to advise women who are pregnant or planning to conceive to discuss their travel plans with their doctors.

Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore's closest neighbours, have stepped up protective measures following the outbreak, introducing thermal scanners at airports and border checkpoints.

Travellers who take the bus into Johor from Singapore will have to undergo thermal screening for Zika, while those crossing the border via vehicles like cars, taxis and motorcycles will be given a pamphlet on the symptoms of the virus. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people commute between Singapore and Johor daily.

Similar screenings are also being implemented at airport terminals hosting direct flights from Singapore, such as those in Penang and Langkawi.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has caused explosive outbreaks in the Americas and the Caribbean since late last year, poses a particular risk to pregnant women because it can cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.