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Singapore authorities closely monitoring Zika virus: Amy Khor

There have been no cases of Zika diagnosed in Singapore yet, but the National Environment Agency and the Ministry of Health are monitoring the virus, which is spreading through Central and South America.

SINGAPORE: Authorities in Singapore are closely monitoring the Zika virus, which is spreading throughout Central and South America, said Dr Amy Khor on Sunday (Jan 24).

During a visit to nurseries along Thomson Road, the Senior Minister of State for Health added that no cases have been detected in Singapore yet. However, medical experts have said that the Republic is “extremely vulnerable” to the virus.

"Singapore is vulnerable to the virus simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region, and of course there are also tourists here," said Dr Khor.

She added that while there have been no cases of Zika diagnosed in Singapore so far, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) did not rule out the possibility that there could be undetected cases since the symptoms of the virus are often mild, with some affected persons showing no symptoms at all.

MOH 'ACTIVELY CONSIDERING' PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES

In a statement on Sunday, MOH also said that it is "actively considering" precautionary measures against the virus. It added that NEA has stepped up its ongoing surveillance programme for the virus. 

In the statement, MOH advised travellers to countries affected by the Zika virus to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing clothing that cover the body, arms and legs, applying insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screen. "Pregnant travellers are advised to undertake strict precautions against mosquito bites," the ministry added.

MOH also said that although the disease symptoms associated with the Zika virus infection are "usually mild", the outbreak in Brazil "has been associated with central nervous system (brain) malfunction in foetuses and infants of infected mothers, and investigations are ongoing in Brazil to confirm that there is a causal link". 

The Zika virus has spread to parts of Asia, including Cambodia and Thailand. The virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever.

During the visit, Dr Khor also distributed educational material on the ways in which the public can stop mosquito breeding. With Chinese New Year around the corner and the public purchasing festive plants for their home, Dr Khor encouraged plant buyers to be more vigilant in dengue prevention.

A total of 477 cases were reported this week, 28 fewer than the corresponding period in the previous week.

Due to the warmer weather, NEA has seen an increase in the Aedes mosquito population. The agency has also found that mosquito breeding largely happens in homes. In 2015, NEA conducted more than 1.4 million inspections island-wide, and uncovered more than 19,000 instances of mosquito breeding.