Get tested, mums-to-be with signs of Zika urged

Testing with doctor's referral is free; new cases found outside initial cluster

The Women's Specialist clinic at 113 Aljunied Avenue 2. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

All pregnant women who develop fever and rash, along with other signs of possible Zika infection such as red eyes or joint pain, have been advised to test for the virus.

This is regardless of whether they have been to Zika-affected areas. Those whose male partners are found to carry the Zika virus are also being urged to get tested, even if the women are not showing symptoms of the virus.

Testing after referral by a doctor is free at public healthcare institutions, added the Ministry of Health (MOH) last night, when it was revealed that the infection had spread beyond the initial Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster.

Of the 26 more cases confirmed yesterday, five involved people living or working in Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way, areas just north of Aljunied and Sims Drive.

This brings the total number of local transmissions to 82, three days after a Malaysian woman living and working in Aljunied was identified as the first known case of a person being infected locally.

While a Zika infection is mild for most, it can have very serious consequences for pregnant women and unborn children. The Aedes mosquito-borne virus has been linked with microcephaly - a condition in which the baby is born with a much smaller head.

After a meeting yesterday of the Clinical Advisory Group on Zika and Pregnancy, the MOH released updated guidelines.

Highlighting how prevention is the best protection, expectant mothers were urged to "undertake strict precautions against mosquito bites". These include wearing clothing that covers the limbs, and sleeping under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens or air-conditioned rooms. Seek medical help immediately if Zika symptoms show, the advisory stressed.

A person with the infection typically develops a fever and rash, and shows at least one other symptom such as red eyes or joint pain.

While the virus is mostly spread by the Aedes mosquito, a small number of cases of sexual transmission has been documented. That is why pregnant women who show no symptoms, but with male partners who are Zika-positive, should be tested as well.

If a pregnant patient is confirmed to be infected by Zika, she will be referred to a specialist for counselling. The MOH said it will also arrange for her admission to a public hospital if needed.

Describing the news of the 26 new cases as "troubling", MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling yesterday said the Marine Parade Town Council has been conducting extra fogging in Aljunied Crescent and this will be expanded to her ward.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline Get tested, mums-to-be with signs of Zika urged. Subscribe