PUBLIC HEALTH
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Zika virus

China in travel warning to its citizens as Singapore reports 30 Chinese nationals with Zika virus

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 11:11pm

China has issued an alert to citizens planning to travel to Singapore where the number of Zika infection cases has risen to 275, including 30 Chinese nationals who are in the city-state.

The warning from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, made on Wednesday, also required ports across the mainland to step up health checks, quarantine controls and epidemic monitoring.

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People planning to travel to 58 countries and regions where the Zika virus has been transmitted locally such as Singapore should adopt “stringent” measures to avoid mosquito bites, it said.

For instance, people should wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and trousers, use mosquito repellent and netting while sleeping.

The authority said mainland tourists in Singapore should monitor their own health condition and make timely visits to the doctor if bitten by mosquitoes or they develop symptoms.

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Zika is primarily an Aedes-mosquito-borne virus that causes only mild symptoms for most people such as fever, rashes or joint pain. The virus has been detected in 67 countries and territories including Brazil. Four out of five of those infected exhibit no symptoms.

Pregnant women who contract the virus can give birth to babies with microcephaly, a deformation marked by abnormally small heads and brains.

So far, the mainland has not yet reported any locally transmitted infections. Dozens of mainland residents in Guangdong, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Beijing who were confirmed to have the virus had contracted it while travelling abroad.

Scientists say Singapore Zika strain is Asian, not from Brazil

Other Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, have also reported cases.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency said the virus strain in the city came from within Asia and was not imported from Brazil.

Dr Lu Hongzhou, a leading infectious diseases expert at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, said the method of transmission – from mosquitoes to humans to mosquitoes – was straightforward and so the “globalisation” of the virus was inevitable.

“Global warming and high temperatures and humid weather in China’s southern regions lead to a high likelihood of a Zika epidemic,” he told the South China Morning Post.

Lu predicted the number of imported cases on the mainland would rise and controlling the infection would be daunting.

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Since last month, the inspection and quarantine department at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport has performed health checks on 74 passengers arriving from Zika-hit regions who showed symptoms of the disease.

No cases of infection have been found, according to the department. The airport sees a daily average of 14 flights to and from Singapore, with about 2,500 passengers going both ways.

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday advised anyone returning from Zika-hit areas to practise safe sex for six months afterwards.

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According to a study published in The Lancet at the weekend, about 2.6 billion people living in parts of Asia and Africa could be at risk of infection, based on an analysis of travel, climate and mosquito patterns.

Dr. Wang Linghang, an infection specialist from Beijing Ditan Hospital, said that based on the intensity of mosquitoes in China, the risk of Zika spreading in the country’s northern regions was much smaller than that in its south.

“It’s not necessary for people living in the north to feel panic towards the Zika virus,” Wang told the Beijing Times.