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Zika virus

Locally transmitted Zika virus infects 41 in Singapore

The National Environment Agency has intensified operations to control the Aedes mosquito population, which is a carrier of the virus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 3:55pm

Singapore reported 40 more cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infections on Sunday, most of them foreign workers at a construction site.

The government on Saturday announced its first case, that of a 47-year-old Malaysian woman residing in the city state.

All 41 infections appear to be concentrated in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive areas in the eastern part of Singapore, near the Geylang red light district, and about 15 minutes’ drive to the financial business district.

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“They are not known to have travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, and are thus likely to have been infected in Singapore,” the statement said.

“This confirms that local transmission of Zika virus infection has taken place.”

It said that at this point the community transmission appears to be localised within the district.

Thirty-six of those infected are foreign labourers working at a construction site in the area, according to the statement.

It said 34 have fully recovered while the other seven, who are still symptomatic and potentially infectious, remain in hospital.

As Singapore has already been battling dengue, which is rife in Singapore’s warm, humid and rainy tropical climate, there are fears that Zika could spread rapidly in the tiny island state.

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In May this year, Singapore reported its first case of the virus but that involved transmission from abroad, as the 48-year-old patient had just returned from Brazil.

Two infectious disease experts warned in January this year that the city state could be “extremely vulnerable” to the Zika virus, according to a local state-run radio station, 938LIVE.

The Zika virus infection has been much dreaded as it is suspected to cause abnormally small head sizes in newborn children, a condition called microcephaly, when women contract the virus during pregnancy. Recently experts have also said that it could even have a negative effect on the brains of adults who have been infected.

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There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 per cent of people infected have no symptoms, however.

Zika is carried by mosquitoes, which transmit the virus to humans. A small number of cases of sexual transmission have been reported in the United States and elsewhere. A case of suspected transmission through a blood transfusion in Brazil has raised questions about other ways that Zika may spread.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Kyodo