Precautionary Measures Against Zika Virus Infection

The Ministry of Health (MOH), Singapore has been closely monitoring the Zika virus situation, and will be introducing several measures to enhance the surveillance of the disease and the protection of Singaporeans. We also urge all Singaporeans to take the appropriate precautions to prevent mosquito breeding as vector control is critical in preventing transmission and reducing the risk of the virus from taking root in Singapore.

2.            Currently, South America is seeing a large outbreak of Zika virus infection, with Brazil reporting the largest outbreak, estimated at over 1 million infections in 2015. Within South East Asia, sporadic cases of Zika have been detected from Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, East Malaysia and Thailand in recent years. Taiwan reported an imported case of Zika virus infection from Thailand on 19 January.

3.            Since 2013, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has had an ongoing surveillance programme for the virus. While we have not detected any case of Zika virus infection in Singapore thus far, we cannot rule out the possibility that there are undetected cases, as most infected persons may display mild or no symptoms. We have stepped up surveillance given the current situation.

4.            With the presence of Zika in our region and the volume of travel by Singaporeans as well as tourists, it is inevitable that there will be imported cases of Zika into Singapore in time to come and there is a high risk of subsequent local transmission, as the Aedes mosquito vector is present here. As such, the virus may become endemic in Singapore.

5.            As Zika is transmitted through mosquitoes, vector control remains the mainstay to prevent transmission of the Zika virus. Whilst NEA will continue with its search and destroy efforts to control the Aedes mosquito population, it is critical that all of us as a community continue to play our part by remaining vigilant. We must all take the appropriate precautions to prevent mosquito breeding, such as removing potential breeding habitats from places under our care.

6.            MOH and NEA will implement a set of control measures to reduce the risk of the Zika virus becoming entrenched in Singapore. These include measures to:

a)    Reduce the risk of importation of the Zika virus: Travellers to countries with Zika virus infection will be advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Health advisory posters will be placed at our airports for outbound travellers.

b)    Facilitate early detection of cases: Returning travellers from affected areas are advised to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of Zika such as fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes. Posters will be placed at airports to serve as reminders. Zika virus infection has been added to the List of Notifiable Infectious Diseases under the Infectious Diseases Act. MOH is also raising awareness of Zika virus infection among the medical community so that doctors stay vigilant against possible suspect cases.

c)    Contain the spread of Zika virus infection: In the event of a case of Zika virus infection in Singapore, NEA will step up intensive vector control. Together with members of the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force, NEA will intensify search and destroy efforts to control the Aedes mosquito population. In addition, it is critical that the community join in the fight by taking immediate actions to prevent mosquito breeding by doing the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout weekly.

To prevent Zika from becoming entrenched in our local population, MOH will also undertake strict control measures. All confirmed cases will be admitted to a public hospital until they recover and test negative for the virus. Admitting them into a single room at the hospital will also minimise their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes while they are carrying the virus, which may result in further local transmission. MOH will also actively look for additional cases in high risk areas in relation to the confirmed cases.

Health Advisory

7.            Travellers to countries with local transmission of the Zika virus should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long, covered clothing, applying insect-repellent, and sleeping under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens to keep out mosquitoes. They should seek medical attention promptly if they become unwell. (Please click here for a list of countries with Zika outbreaks and local transmissions.)

8.            While there is no evidence thus far to suggest that pregnant women are more susceptible to Zika virus infection or experience more severe disease during pregnancy, there is increasing evidence of a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and brain malformation in their foetuses and infants. As such, pregnant women should reconsider their travel plans to countries with ongoing outbreaks and local transmission. If they need to travel there, they should undertake strict precautions against mosquito bites.

9.            Travellers who have returned to Singapore from affected areas should monitor their health for the next 14 days and consult a doctor if they have symptoms of Zika, such as fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes. They should inform the doctor of the areas that they have travelled to.

27 JANUARY 2016


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