First Zika cluster of 2017 reported in Hougang

Today Online 29 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Some three months after the Zika transmission in Singapore tapered off, two members of the same household at Simon Place have been found to have contracted the Zika virus, making the area in Hougang the first Zika cluster to be reported this year.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday (March 29) that it was notified of the cluster on Tuesday.

That afternoon, the NEA started vector control operations and outreach activities, such as distributing information leaflets and insect repellents to households, at the cluster.

Ten mosquito breeding habitats — seven in homes and three in other premises — were detected and destroyed. By Wednesday, the NEA had inspected about 120 out of some 400 premises in the Simon Place cluster for mosquito breeding. It also conducted ground checks in the area.

Singapore had its first locally transmitted case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in August last year. The virus is known to cause abnormally small heads in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant — a condition called microcephaly.

Around mid-October, the NEA said that the first and largest locally transmitted Zika cluster at the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area, which had seen nearly 300 cases since August, had been closed.

By December, the number of Zika cases had tapered off.

Several residents at Simon Place told TODAY that they were concerned about the Zika cluster in the area.

Financial services consultant Patrick Lim, 55, said: “All my neighbours are worried. We have started precautions only now, since we got to know of this. We usually check for mosquitoes , but we are concerned that NEA hasn’t done enough for the common areas.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Mr Brendan Goh, 21, who is doing his National Service, said: “I’m quite surprised, it is worrying. We haven’t been taking precautions, except for the usual, such as checking for stagnant water. This area has a lot of dengue cases though, especially in recent years.”

Residents told TODAY that they had received a letter from the NEA informing them that there will be thermal fogging done today, between 9am and 12.30pm.

The areas to be fogged are Kang Choo Bin Road, Poh Huat Road, Da Silva Lane, Simon Lane, Simon Place and Florence Road, according to the letter.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam attributed the new Zika cases to a rise in temperatures.

“Dengue cases would be rising or have risen, and the seasonal dengue period is coming. And Zika parallels dengue,” he told TODAY.

He added that Singapore had taken the right steps during the Zika outbreak last year, and the usual measures should be continued.

“The numbers are small ... we aren’t seeing as many cases as I expected. This means Singapore is doing something right,” Dr Leong added.

The NEA on Wednesday urged residents to allow its officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes if required.

“Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, which heightens the risk of a Zika resurgence as it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected. With the presence of the Aedes mosquito vector here, everyone must therefore continue to maintain vigilance and play his part to prevent future localised transmission through eradicating mosquito breeding habitats in our neighbourhoods,” it said.

Singapore's first Zika cluster of 2017 reported at Simon Place
Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Two cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infections have been confirmed at Simon Place in Hougang, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday (Mar 29).

This is the first Zika cluster reported in Singapore this year.

Both cases are residents from the same household, NEA added in a media release.

The Zika cluster was confirmed on Tuesday and vector control operations are being carried out in the area.

“As of Mar 29, NEA has inspected about 120 premises out of about 400 premises in the Simon Place cluster to check for mosquito breeding and also conducted ground checks in the vicinity," said the agency.

"Ten breeding habitats - comprising seven in homes and three in common areas/other premises - have been detected and destroyed."

NEA added that it has carried out indoor spraying of insecticides, as well as thermal fogging and misting in the outdoor areas. In addition, outreach efforts are being conducted by NEA officers and grassroots volunteers in the area to distribute Zika information leaflets and insect repellent to households.

NEA also urged residents to allow officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of residents' homes if required.

"Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, which heightens the risk of a Zika resurgence as it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected. With the presence of the Aedes mosquito vector here, everyone must therefore continue to maintain vigilance and play his part to prevent future localised transmission through eradicating mosquito breeding habitats in our neighbourhoods," said NEA.

Member of Parliament (MP) Sylvia Lim also urged residents to cooperate with NEA's operations. "I urge all residents to cooperate fully and to exercise personal vigilance to prevent the spread of Zika, including using repellent and preventing breeding," the Aljunied GRC MP wrote on her Facebook page.

Singapore’s first confirmed locally transmitted case of Zika was first announced on Aug 26, 2016. As of Dec 21, 2016, 17 pregnant women were confirmed to have contracted Zika. The disease has been linked to microcephaly in other countries.

- CNA/ek

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