Zika infection: Expert advice on how pregnant women can protect themselves

SINGAPORE  - The Zika Clinical Advisory Group, comprising experts in obstetrics, paediatrics, infectious diseases and laboratory capabilities, was unanimous about offering free testing to pregnant women islandwide with Zika symptoms, as they fear the disease could have spread beyond the current outbreak area.

Professor Arijit Biswas, who chairs the nine-member group set up in February, said the biggest concern for Zika is its effect on pregnancy.

"We might miss some (cases)," he said, if tests were restricted to only those in the outbreak area in Singapore's central-eastern district including Aljunied, Sims Drive and Kallang Way.

"So we decided to make the net wider."


But these women should have at least three Zika symptoms within the past two weeks:

- a fever even if it is as low as 37 deg C for only one day,

- Rash that is usually red, flat and itchy and in more than one part of the body. Women in the second half of their pregnancy often have rash caused by pregnancy hormones, so that alone is not enough.

- any one of the following: joint or muscle ache, red eyes or headache.

They would need a referral from their doctor who would assess their condition and arrange for them to be tested. They could also go directly to a hospital emergency department.

But Prof Biswas, who is a senior consultant at the National University Hospital (NUH), said women without such recent symptoms should not go for the tests, which would not show if they had been infected some weeks earlier.