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.
Olivia Quay Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 16;

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.

- CNA/mz

Man, 47, dies from dengue in first reported death this year
The Singaporean had been staying at Marsiling Rise, in an area that was within an active dengue cluster with 10 cases, says MOH and NEA.

Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 16;

SINGAPROE: A 47-year-old man has died of dengue at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint news release on Sunday (Jan 24).

The man is the first person in Singapore to have died from dengue this year. The local death toll in 2015 was four.

The Singaporean stayed at Marsiling Rise, and he was admitted to KTPH on Thursday. His condition deteriorated and he died on Friday, authorities added.

They also said that the patient had been staying in an area that was within an active 10-case dengue cluster.

"NEA has been inspecting the premises in the area, and detected and destroyed six counts of mosquito breeding thus far, of which five were found in residential premises and one in common areas," the media release stated.

It added that vector control operations to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy potential breeding habitats have been ongoing since the notification of the cluster on Jan 5.

- CNA/hs

47-year-old man dies from dengue; first reported fatality in 2016

Today Online 25 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Amid an anomalous surge in dengue cases this year, a 47-year-old man died from the mosquito-borne disease on Friday (Jan 22) — the first fatality of the year.

In a joint statement today, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the man, a Singaporean, lived at Marsiling Road and was admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) on Thursday. His condition deteriorated and he died a day later in the hospital.

The area the patient lived in was within an active dengue cluster with 10 cases, the statement said. The NEA has been inspecting the premises in the area and found six instances of mosquito breeding — five on residential premises and one in a common area.

A check on the NEA’s dengue website yesterday showed 32 high-risk areas across the island with at least 10 cases each, as of last Friday. There are another 111 areas that are classified as high-risk, but with fewer than 10 cases each.

Cumulatively, there were 477 cases last week, the lowest this year but still higher than the record weekly total in 2015 — 458. The figures for the first two weeks are 547 and 628, respectively.

Two weeks ago, the NEA attributed the spike in cases to an increase in the Aedes mosquito population and “slightly warmer-than-usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon”, which shortens the dengue virus’ incubation periods as well as the mosquitoes’ breeding and maturation cycles. It also warned that dengue figures are likely to rise as the weather heats up.

The proportion of dengue cases due to the DENV-2 serotype, a common type of dengue virus here, has also risen sharply and now accounts for two-thirds of all dengue cases here, up from about half of all cases a month earlier, the agency said then. The DENV-1 serotype has accounted for most cases here since March 2013.

Today, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor visited two nurseries along Thomson Road to remind people shopping for plants for the Chinese New Year celebrations to play their part in keeping dengue at bay by preventing mosquito breeding.

Traditionally, Chinese like to buy plants such as pussy willow and “lucky” bamboo for the festivities. Dr Khor noted that vases are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In a statement, the Health Ministry and NEA urged the public to stay vigilant and work together to prevent dengue cases from rising, including cooperating with NEA officers who wish to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding or to spray insecticide.

“We are seeing a further increase in the Aedes mosquito population due to the slightly warmer-than-usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon, which aids in breeding and spread of both the mosquito vector and the virus,” they said.

“In view of the warmer-than-usual weather persisting, the number of dengue cases in 2016 is expected to be high, with cases spiking earlier than in previous years. There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control.”


Call for vigilance as Singapore is 'vulnerable' to the virus
Linette Lai, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 16;

A shopper with a flier on dengue prevention at a nursery in Thomson Road. The symptoms of dengue and Zika infections are broadly similar though Zika patients tend to develop conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eye.

Singapore cannot rule out the possibility of the Zika virus making its way here, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said yesterday, as cases have been reported in neighbouring countries.


Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, added that the virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is very common here and also transmits dengue.

"Singapore would be vulnerable to the potential import of the Zika virus, simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region and, of course, there are tourists here," she said.

Apart from the outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean, small numbers of cases have been detected in East Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand, she said.

The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Infections have generally been considered mild, with many of those who have the virus not showing any symptoms.

However, the virus has recently been associated with brain malformation in foetuses and infants of infected mothers in Brazil, sparking widespread concern. The link, however, has not yet been conclusively proven.

Infectious diseases physician Leong Hoe Nam said the symptoms of dengue and Zika infections are broadly similar. But Zika infections tend to be milder, with less severe muscle aches and back pains than those usually associated with dengue, he told The Straits Times. In addition, Zika patients tend to develop conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eye.

Dr Leong added that up to nine in 10 people infected with Zika may not show symptoms at all.

Yesterday, Dr Khor said that while there have been no reported cases of Zika here yet, Singaporeans should remain vigilant.

"There could be undetected cases, since the symptoms exhibited by infected persons could be mild, or some may not even exhibit (them)," she said.

Dr Khor was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to two plant nurseries along Thomson Road, during which she reminded shoppers to keep up the fight against dengue during the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Dengue numbers have been unusually high this year, with 136 active clusters as of last Friday, compared with 120 the week before.

This is attributable to a change in the prevailing strain of dengue, as well as the warmer weather in recent months, which facilitates mosquito breeding. While the predominant dengue strain for the past two years was Den-1, around two-thirds of all dengue cases now belong to the Den-2 serotype.

Yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Health Ministry (MOH) released a joint statement on this year's first dengue death. The 47-year-old man had lived in Marsiling Road in an active dengue cluster. He was admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital last Thursday, and died the next day.

The authorities said that steps to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy breeding spots have been in place in the area since Jan 5.

In the light of the expected spike in dengue cases this year, they said: "There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control.

"Residents are urged to co-operate fully and allow NEA officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any infective mosquitoes."

In a separate statement on the Zika virus, the MOH advised people, especially those who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to countries with local transmission. They should wear clothing that covers the body and limbs, apply insect repellent, and sleep under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens.

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