Singapore

Zika: First infected pregnant woman found in Aljunied

Expectant mother who lives in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area tested positive for Zika yesterday


A pregnant woman has been infected with the Zika virus, making her the first in Singapore.

And as the number of locally-infected people rose to 115, a new potential cluster, at Bedok North Avenue 3, was also identified.

These were announced at a joint press conference by the Health Ministry (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) at 10pm yesterday.

The conference was called at the eleventh hour after the expectant mother, who lives in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area, tested positive for Zika yesterday afternoon.

Her husband also tested positive.

There were no details given of the woman or how far along she is in her pregnancy.

Dr Derrick Heng, group director for Public Health at MOH, reiterated eight times to reporters that no information of the patient would be divulged "to preserve her confidentiality".

"There are not many pregnant women living in the area and we are not giving out any information which leads to her identity," he explained.

The woman suffered mild symptoms and was referred to KK Women's and Children's Hospital by a general practitioner she had consulted.

Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, MOH director of Medical Services, told the conference that a maternal-foetal specialist will monitor her health and the development of her unborn baby. The doctor will also advise and counsel her.

Associate Professor Arijit Biswas, head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the National University Hospital, said the general guidelines are for pregnant patients with Zika to go for checks every four weeks.

The reporters were told that the patient does have an option to abort the baby, but "the decision to terminate is a personal one", Prof Ong said.

It is known that if a pregnancy is more than 24 weeks, then abortion is no longer an option.

A total of 115 Zika infections had been confirmed in Singapore since Saturday, when the first case of locally-transmitted Zika virus infection was reported.

The number jumped on Sunday as MOH confirmed 41 cases of locally-transmitted Zika, all of whom were residents or workers in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area.

POTENTIAL

MOH and NEA yesterday identified what they called "a new potential cluster" at Bedok North Avenue 3. They also confirmed 24 new cases, the majority of whom are from the existing Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster, which has now extended to Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way.

They said that two of the new cases have no known links to the affected area. One patient lives at Joo Seng Road and the other lives at Punggol Way.

On the potential new cluster at Bedok North Avenue 3, MOH and NEA said that three cases were reported on Tuesday. The patients had symptoms that showed up within four days and therefore did not infect one another.

One case in Bedok North has a link to Kallang Way, but the other two have no known links to the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster, suggesting a possible new cluster, the authorities said.

NEA said it would begin mosquito-control operations at the potential new cluster at Bedok North Avenue 3, which comprises 6,000 premises, todayand urged residents to cooperate with its officers.

Its director-general of Environmental Public Health Division, Mr Derek Ho, said the officers may need to gain entry into inaccessible premises by force after serving notice, to ensure potential breeding sites are destroyed quickly.

Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong said: "Over time, we expect Zika cases to emerge from more areas. We must work and plan on the basis that there is Zika transmission in other parts of Singapore and extend our vector control efforts beyond the current affected areas.

"Everyone can play a part to prevent mosquito-breeding."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that vector control remains the primary way to tackle the transmission of Zika.

He said: "It is important that everyone in the community takes immediate steps to prevent mosquito-breeding in our homes by doing the five-step Mozzie Wipeout.

"We can also protect ourselves from mosquito bites by applying insect repellent to curb the transmission of the Zika virus in Singapore."

The NEA will be stepping up its vector control efforts to wider areas.

So far, 45 breeding habitats have been detected and destroyed.

NEA fogs, treats Paya Lebar Way

The National Environment Agency (NEA) carried out vector control operations in Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way yesterday, a day after 26 cases of locally-transmitted Zika infections were confirmed, with five of the cases from both areas.

NEA officers and contractors were seen fogging the area around Block 120, Paya Lebar Way and drains in the area were treated with granular insecticide to destroy potential mosquito breeding sites.

They also visited the homes of residents to carry out misting to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Resident Melvin Chua, 58, said he was concerned about the many vulnerable elderly residents in his neighbourhood.

Mr Chua lives in Block 121, an area where Zika has spread, beyond the initial cluster at Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive.

The mosquito-borne disease is generally mild in adults, but can cause foetal defects for those infected during pregnancy.

The operation was observed by Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources and Health, Dr Amy Khor, who also helped to spread the word on Zika prevention to elderly residents.

She said the area is already a dengue cluster and that vector control was intensified on Aug 24.

So far, 60 per cent of about 1,000 units in eight blocks in Paya Lebar Way have been checked, she said, adding that operations are ongoing.

Measures include intensifying misting and fogging activities in the vicinity of Aljunied Crescent. - ST

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