3 Zika cases confirmed in Serangoon Gardens, first cluster in Singapore in 2019

A worker clears drains at Hemsley Avenue on Sept 14, 2019. All three cases in the cluster formed on Sept 13 involved residents in the vicinity, said the National Environment Agency in a statement.
A worker clears drains at Hemsley Avenue on Sept 14, 2019. All three cases in the cluster formed on Sept 13 involved residents in the vicinity, said the National Environment Agency in a statement. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Three cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection have been confirmed in Hemsley Avenue in Serangoon Gardens - the first Zika cluster here this year.

All three cases in the cluster formed on Friday (Sept 13) involved residents in the vicinity, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a statement.

There have been seven cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Singapore this year as of Friday.

The NEA noted that the Zika cluster is near a dengue cluster of eight cases formed last month in Bridport Avenue, Cowdray Avenue, Huddington Avenue, Portchester Avenue and Tavistock Avenue.

Both Zika and dengue are spread by the Aedes mosquito, and a cluster is formed when two or more cases occur within 14 days and are located within 150m of each other.

The NEA urged residents to stay vigilant and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, as "there could still be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity".

The Zika virus is known to cause abnormally small heads in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant - a condition called microcephaly.

 
 

It can also affect visual development in infants who were infected before birth.

Brazil, which suffered an outbreak of the virus in 2015, noticed an odd increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had in February 2016 declared the link between Zika and clusters of microcephaly and other neurological problems a public health emergency of international concern. It lifted the international emergency label in November that year.

The first locally transmitted case in Singapore was seen in August 2016. By the end of that year, about 450 people here were infected.

The last Zika cluster prior to this latest one was in July 2017, where three cases involving residents in Serangoon North Avenue 1 were reported.

Only one in five people develops symptoms when infected with Zika, which are usually fairly mild. These include a low-grade fever, rashes, conjunctivitis, mild headaches as well as muscle and joint pains.

The NEA said on Friday that it has begun vector control operations in the dengue cluster area, including spraying insecticide indoors as well as misting and thermal fogging outdoors.

As of Friday, the agency has tracked down and destroyed five breeding habitats in the dengue cluster area: one located in a home and four others found in common areas and other premises.

NEA officers and community leaders will distribute information leaflets and insect repellents to raise awareness, emphasise the need to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, and apply repellent as a precaution.

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash.