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Singapore has first pregnant woman testing positive for Zika

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(Bloomberg) — Singapore said a pregnant woman tested positive for the Zika virus infection on Wednesday, as the number of reported cases reached 115 in less than week since the first locally transmitted infection was identified.

There were 24 new cases identified Wednesday, with a potential infection cluster in the east of the island, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency. The pregnant woman’s doctor is closely monitoring the health of the woman and her baby, according to the statement on Wednesday.

Related: Don’t count on winter to save us from Zika

Nine additional infections were also detected from testing of previous cases. A total of 57 cases — half of those infected — were foreigners who work and live in the city-state, the Ministry of Health said in a separate statement on Thursday.

“All had mild illness,” the ministry said. “Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well.”

Singapore has stepped up efforts to fight the Zika virus since  reporting the first locally-transmitted case on Aug. 27. Local media websites have showed video footage of NEA officials fogging outdoor areas, and handing out insect repellent in areas surrounding the infection cluster. Water drains, which are subject to regular flooding in the rain-soaked tropical island state, are also a point of particular concern.

Home inspections

NEA officials are also inspecting private homes in search of pools of stagnant water, in accordance with strict local regulations that have long been in place to help contain dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses.

“Over time, we expect Zika cases to emerge from more areas,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a statement. “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.”

Chi Wei Ming, part of a team of doctors that raised the first alarm over the spread of Zika in Singapore on Aug. 22, according to local media reports, wrote Wednesday on his Facebook page that it was two weeks before Zika virus was identified among a growing list of patients who had tested negative for other illnesses.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), while my colleagues and I were still combing through our clinic patients’ records to identify possible Zika case we’d missed earlier, there were many National Environment Agency officers working in pairs under the hot sun, inspecting every nook and corner to eradicate mosquito breeding,” Chi wrote.

Demand for mosquito repellents and patches has soared across Singapore since last weekend, with supermarkets and pharmacies contacted by local media reporting efforts to replenish dwindling stocks. Local authorities are also encouraging members of the public to use a mobile application device called OneService — which was set up to give feedback on municipal issues — to report any suspicious looking mosquito-breeding grounds.

Travel warnings

The recent spread in Singapore highlights the threat of infection across Asia. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have reported cases that were either transmitted locally or brought into the country, according to Singapore authorities. Channel News Asia reported that a Malaysian woman who visited Singapore on Aug. 19 had also tested positive to Zika.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry issued a travel advisory Thursday for citizens going to Singapore. That follows an earlier warning issued Monday by Taiwan. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that pregnant women do not travel to Singapore, and urged travelers to take precautions.

The Zika virus has been documented in several Asian countries since it first emerged in 1951, including Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan, prior to the Brazilian outbreak, according to Raina MacIntyre, head of the school of public health and community medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The World Health Organization in February said Zika, and its possible link to birth defects, was a public health emergency of international concern. In Brazil, the virus may be linked to more than 3,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and potential developmental problems.


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