The Ministry of Health (MOH) has set up a clinical advisory group to look into the management of pregnant women who might have the Zika virus, and will come up with guidelines for doctors treating such women.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said: "The clinical advisory group has just met and is still discussing their recommendations on the clinical management of pregnant women with confirmed or suspected Zika virus infection.
"MOH will issue guidelines and recommendations to doctors based on the recommendations of the advisory group."
Surveillance for microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) has also been stepped up, to pick up any unusual trends, she said. There is a suspected link between pregnant women infected with Zika, and microcephaly in newborns, a rare condition that causes abnormally small heads and can lead to developmental problems.
The Zika virus has been spreading across the Americas and is linked to underdeveloped brains in babies. Like dengue, the Zika virus is carried by the Aedes mosquito.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has stepped up the testing of blood samples of patients with fever, rash or suspected dengue, for the Zika virus, said Dr Khor.
She was responding to questions from Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar GRC) and Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) on steps to detect or prevent the Zika virus in Singapore.
MOH is also looking at working with the relevant institutions on potential areas for collaboration and research, such as Zika virus diagnostics, transmission, and its association with microcephaly and GBS, Dr Khor said. And if a case is detected in Singapore, NEA and other agencies under the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force will intensify search and destroy efforts to contain the Aedes mosquito population at the implicated sites.
MOH is also expanding the capability to test the Zika virus to more public hospital laboratories.
These updates come a day after the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said any homes found to breed mosquitoes will be fined $200, whether they are inside or outside of dengue clusters. Only homes within dengue clusters are now fined. Meanwhile, MEWR will continue fogging to eliminate a large mosquito population.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament: "Fogging is carried out in a selective and targeted manner to avoid the build-up of resistance in the mosquito population."
NEA also regularly monitors the resistance of mosquitoes against insecticides to ensure that they remain effective, he said.
The minister was replying to Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who asked whether mosquitoes may build up their resistance to the same type of chemical being used consistently. Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) also asked if national water agency PUB will expedite repairs of damaged drains to reduce mosquito breeding places.
Mr Masagos said the PUB regularly maintains drains.
"Drains that show minor damage will be repaired promptly. Such repair works will be prioritised based on the drain conditions," he said, adding that drains damaged beyond repair will be upgraded as soon as possible.
What it should have been
Published on 02 March 2016
Our story yesterday, "Zika: MOH to issue advice on treating pregnant women", quoted Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli as saying:
"Fogging is carried out in a selective and targeted manner to avoid the build-up of resistance in the mosquito population."
This is incorrect. It was Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor who made the point. We are sorry for the error.