Singapore mass sprays residences as Zika infections rise to over 50
Authorities have urged those living and working in the risk areas, especially pregnant women, to monitor their health and seek medical attention if they are unwell
Officials sprayed insecticide and cleared drains of stagnant water in residential areas of Singapore at high risk of further Zika infections on Monday after 56 locally transmitted cases were confirmed in the city state.
Workers wearing fumigation masks travelled methodically through high-rise public housing estates in seven separate areas of the island, inspecting plant pots closely as they sprayed insecticide via thermal fogging machines.
The health ministry on Saturday confirmed Singapore’s first locally-transmitted case of Zika, with the tally rising to 41 just a day later. Fifteen more infections were confirmed late on Monday. All of the infected people were either residents of the Aljunied district or workers at a construction site owned by GuocoLand in the area.
“We expect to identify more positive cases,” the ministry said on Monday in its latest update on the outbreak.
“Given that the majority of Zika cases are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and mosquitoes in the affected areas may already have been infected, isolation of positive cases may have limited effect to managing the spread.”
Singapore, a major regional financial centre and busy transit hub, which maintains a constant vigil against the mosquito-borne dengue virus, reported its first case of the Zika virus in May, brought in by a middle-aged man who had been to Brazil.
GuocoLand, which is headquartered in Singapore and has developments across Asia, was ordered on Saturday to stop work on the building site where 36 of the infected people worked. It will remain closed until the company rectifies the conditions that allowed mosquitoes to breed and steps up preventative measures, the health ministry said.
The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was detected in Brazil last year and has since spread across the Americas. It poses a risk to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. It has been linked in Brazil to more than 1,600 cases of microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains.
The World Health Organisation said on Sunday it did not know “which lineage of Zika is circulating” in Singapore or “what the level of population immunity is to this lineage of Zika in Asia.”
Singapore’s health ministry said some 19 mosquito breeding habitats were detected and destroyed in its first sweep of the Aljunied area on Sunday when it fumigated around a third of the 6,000 homes.
Singapore, a densely-populated tropical island with frequent rain, has a chronic problem with dengue, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika through bites from an infected person to another human.
Inspectors checked toilets and other areas for stagnant water that could help mosquitoes breed.
Owners of homes found with such sites can be fined up to S$5,000 (US$3,700).
“I feel afraid,” said Ng Kai Yee, an 18-year-old female student who lives near the construction site believed to be a source of the outbreak. “I heard quite a lot about how harmful Zika virus is to girls, especially pregnant women.”
Authorities have urged those living and working in the risk areas, especially pregnant women, to monitor their health and seek medical attention if they are unwell.
Of the 56 people known to have been infected, 34 have already fully recovered. Only the first case reported was a woman.
Last week, Hong Kong reported its first Zika case, a 38-year-old expatriate woman had returned from the Caribbean island of Saint-Barthelemy. She was discharged from hospital fully recovered on Friday, but the Centre for Health Protection said she and her family members would continue to be under medical surveillance.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse