Zika outbreak: Stepping up fight with outreach events

Eight pregnant women among 329 infected; daily Zika updates on NEA website from today

Domestic worker Endang Wiyanti (at right), who is volunteering with the Centre for Domestic Employees, giving out brochures yesterday to fellow domestic workers Sofiah Supridi (centre) and Sumiri.
Domestic worker Endang Wiyanti (at right), who is volunteering with the Centre for Domestic Employees, giving out brochures yesterday to fellow domestic workers Sofiah Supridi (centre) and Sumiri. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singaporeans stepped up the fight against mosquitoes across the island yesterday in a bid to stop the Zika virus from spreading further.

At least three outreach events were held to raise awareness about the virus, with much of the efforts focused on preventing mosquito-breeding in homes.

National Environment Agency (NEA) chairman Liak Teng Lit told The Straits Times yesterday that fogging alone has "limited use" and "cannot stop this problem".

He also urged Singaporeans to step up checks in their own homes.

"If you breed mosquitoes, you create big problems for your neighbours," he added.

"Even support from 99 per cent of the residents is not good enough. We need 100 per cent support."

Two-thirds of mosquito-breeding sites are found in homes, while the rest are in common areas and construction sites.

Zika infections during pregnancy have been linked to a higher chance of babies being born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the head and brain of the child are undersized.

As of noon yesterday, there were 11 new cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infections here, bringing the total of such cases to 329, said the Ministry of Health and NEA in a joint statement.

Of the new cases, one is linked to the Elite Terrace cluster in the Siglap area.

The remaining 10 cases do not have links with existing clusters.

There are now seven Zika clusters here. Eight pregnant women have been confirmed to have Zika.

Their doctors are following up closely with them to provide support and counselling. From today, the authorities will issue daily Zika updates on NEA's website at www.nea.gov.sg/zika-clusters.

Yesterday morning, Mr Liak joined about 100 residents from Nee Soon South to pick up litter and check for potential mosquito-breeding spots in the neighbourhood.

Among the residents who helped out was engineer Frank Gan, who has been living in the area for more than 15 years.

The 44-year-old, who took his family along, said: "This is our home. We should keep it clean."

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who joined the residents in picking up litter, said: "Litter can collect water or clog drains, causing mosquitoes to breed.

"So our best defence is to keep public areas free of litter."

At the Senja-Cashew Community Club in Bukit Panjang, about 120 people attended a workshop organised by the People's Association and the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, and learnt about natural herbs that can be used to repel mosquitoes.

When combined, these herbs, including peppermint, clove and cinnamon, can be used as alternatives to repellents and patches in protecting oneself from mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, staff and volunteers at the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) - an organisation that helps domestic workers with employment-related grievances - distributed brochures to domestic workers at Toa Payoh Town Park on precautions to take.

CDE's executive director of strategy, Mr Shamsul Kamar, said maids "play a significant role in our households because they are the ones who are the guardians of the homes while their employers go to work".

Separately, on the sidelines of an event to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival yesterday, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said that Zika has to be taken seriously.

"That's because we do not want Zika to be entrenched in Singapore like dengue fever.

"Once Zika becomes entrenched, the numbers (of affected people) will be in the thousands," he said.

•Additional reporting by Felicia Choo


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline Zika outbreak: Stepping up fight with outreach events. Subscribe