Zika outbreak: 5 more suspected cases from clinic that discovered first patient

Suspected Zika patients are taken to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital by ambulance on Aug 29. PHOTO: WANBAO
Fogging being done around 51 Sims Drive on Aug 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Fogging being done around 51 Sims Drive on Aug 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Fogging being done around 51 Sims Drive on Aug 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Fogging being done around 51 Sims Drive on Aug 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
A student walks in front of Geylang Methodist Primary School on Aug 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The clinic that discovered Singapore's first local Zika case saw five more suspected cases on Monday (Aug 29).

Sims Drive Medical Clinic told reporters that the five patients, including some foreign workers, were sent to the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC) for further testing after having had their blood and urine samples taken.

Meanwhile, the authorities are stepping up efforts to control the mosquito population in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area as residents in Singapore's first Zika cluster take precautions to keep the mozzies at bay.

This comes a day after news broke that the neighbourhood was a cluster for 41 locally transmitted Zika cases.

Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling, who represents part of the affected area, told reporters on Monday that her team has compiled a list of about 10 residents who are expecting, in order to tailor outreach to meet their needs.

"I can fully understand and sympathise with how pregnant ladies must be feeling at this moment," she said.

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"We are also working with the gynaes operating within the area to see how we can share information about Zika so that pregnant ladies have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms and what they can do should they observe these symptoms developing," said Ms Tin.

Zika infections during pregnancy have been linked to microcephaly and other foetal brain defects. The virus, which has no vaccine and no cure, can also cause still births. Pregnant women have been told to avoid mosquitoes and abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse.

Ms Tin was speaking outside an obstetrics and gynaecology clinic in Aljunied Avenue 2, near Aljunied Crescent.

Ms Tin added that the authorities are working to eradicate any potential mosquito breeding sites.

Exterminators accompanied by National Environment Agency (NEA) officers were seen carrying out fogging operations in the area on Monday morning.

A joint press release on Sunday from NEA and the Ministry of Health (MOH) advised residents, workers, and students in the area to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Dengue prevention banners in the neighbourhood also encourage residents to destroy mosquito breeding sites, and to use insect repellent and insecticide.

The Aedes mosquito spreads both Zika and dengue fever.

General practitioners at Sims Drive Medical Clinic, which first raised the alert that Zika was spreading in Singapore, said that they were working closely with MOH now that they know the identity of the mysterious viral fever that they began noticing around the second week of August.

Dr Lim Chien Chuan said that medical protocols have been laid out.

"Things are definitely very clear," he said. "We need to take blood, we need to take urine, we need to send them to CDC." Suspected Zika patients are taken to the CDC at Tan Tock Seng Hospital by ambulance.

Local doctors were initially misled by the resemblance to mild cases of dengue, Dr Lim told the media on Monday, especially since dengue is also active in the area.

Said Dr Chi Wei Ming: "Even at that time we don't know it was Zika. So we just tell them (MOH) that we need help because we're seeing a bit more than usual.

"In a sense, we know (now) what's wrong with the patients, but on the flipside, I guess it means that the Zika is now in the community."

Caregivers of children who study in the area said that they were concerned by the revelations of a Zika cluster and were applying insect repellent liberally.

Madam Tan Sai Keow, 65, a retiree who has a Primary 3 grandson studying at Geylang Methodist Primary, said: "This morning I put the mosquito patch on him after hearing the news. I was a bit more worried than usual."

Housewife Seet Ching Har, 60, told The Straits Times that she even sprayed her three-year-old granddaughter's pram with insect repellent, and wanted to make the child wear a raincoat to protect her from mosquito bites.

Madam Seet's granddaughter is enrolled at Pu Ti Childcare Centre in Aljunied Crescent. The centre's principal, Chewy Teng, said that the centre sprays insect repellent thrice a day, burns mosquito coils on the premises on weekends, and has started applying patches to its students.

"We have mosquitoes here every year around this time when the weather is hot and wet," said Ms Teng, 30. "This was my big concern even before Zika."

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