Singapore reports 41 locally transmitted Zika cases
Singapore on Sunday confirmed 41 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus, which can cause deformities in unborn babies, and said more infections are likely.
A day after announcing its first locally transmitted case, that of a 47-year-old Malaysian woman resident, the government reported 40 more – mostly foreign workers at a construction site.
All 41 are residents or workers in a particular suburban residential and industrial district, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency said in a joint statement.
“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 of the virus appears to be localised within the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area, which hosts high-rise residential blocs and some industries.
However, since Zika is spread by the Aedes mosquito – which also carries the dengue virus – the health ministry “cannot rule out further community transmission... since some of those tested positive also live or work in other parts of Singapore”, the statement said. The health ministry said it has alerted clinics and hospitals to be “extra vigilant” and report patients with symptoms associated with the virus, mainly fever and rash.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that more imported cases are likely because Singapore is an international travel hub. And because many Zika carriers display only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all – meaning infected people may not seek treatment – local transmission of these imported cases “is also very high”, he said.
Health officials said the current infections came to light after a local clinic on August 22 reported an unusual rise in viral fever.
This prompted a check by health ministry experts, who told doctors to refer new cases to the government-run Communicable Diseases Centre.
According to the statement, 36 of the 41 cases involve foreign labourers working at a construction site in the area.
Work was halted at the site on Saturday after an inspection by environment agency officers discovered that housekeeping was “unsatisfactory with potential breeding habitats favourable to mosquito breeding”, the statement added.
Singapore hosts thousands of foreign construction workers, most of them from South Asia.