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Singapore on battle mode against Zika

Open-air food centers in affected districts had few lunchtime patrons Friday, many apparently fearful of contracting the mosquito-borne virus. “I understand the food court and all that business is affected but we shouldn’t behave like that,” said retiree David Lye, 67, one of the very few customers at the large Macpherson Market and Food Center.

“We should be positive and do our part to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes,” said Lye, who attends twice-a-week indoor tennis classes nearby. He said he has not been using any mosquito repellant.

Singapore announced its first Zika infection in May, with the virus imported by a 48-year-old man who had traveled to Brazil. On Thursday, The Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency confirmed 31 more locally transmitted cases, bringing the total count to 151, including two pregnant women.

The number includes visitors from Malaysia, and Indonesian and Chinese nationals residing in the city-state. The Zika virus has mild effects on most people, but can be fatal for unborn children. Infection during pregnancy can result in babies with small heads - a condition called microcephaly - and other brain defects.

“So far I have been going to work ... I have been going shopping. Everyone is still living their life per normal,” said retail supervisor Shubez Chakraverty, who lives in an affected cluster. “After all, it’s something we cannot control and it’s a very minute ... animal that goes around so it’s difficult to monitor,” he said. 

In a joint statement, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency said the government’s objective is to keep the incidence of the disease low by reducing the mosquito population and breaking the disease transmission chain. At one of the identified clusters in MacPherson neighborhood, official Zika leaflets were put up in common areas beneath public apartments. 

 Zika a global emergency: WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the outbreak of Zika remains an international health emergency and noted the virus is continuing to infect new countries. The UN health agency convened its expert committee this week to assess the latest status of the epidemic. Dr David Heymann, the committee's chair, said considerable gaps remain in understanding Zika and the complications it causes, including brain-damaged babies, and the WHO concluded that the outbreak remains a global emergency. 

WHO noted that Brazil has not reported a confirmed case, following the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, although studies are ongoing in the country to figure out why certain regions have seen an increase in babies being born with abnormally small heads. To date, Zika has infected 72 countries and territories. 

Agencies

Agencies

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