Thursday, January 28, 2016

Zika Virus Singapore updates

Update Jan 29th 2016: Zika virus is spreading explosively says World Health Organization today. According to a WHO scientist there may be 3 to 4 million cases in Latin America in the next year.

Update Jan 28th 2016 : Pregnant women are urged to not travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries where zika virus is spreading fast. This warning also includes women who plans to become pregnant.

The virus is linked to microcephaly, a rare and brutal condition that shrinks the brains and skulls of the newborns. Babies with microcephaly have an abnormally small brain and skull for their age, in the womb or at birth, with varying degrees of brain damage as a result. It has many potential causes: infections, viruses, toxins or unknown genetic factors.

Right now the list includes Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela. Here is the update list of countries with zika virus outbreak : Zika Travel Information.

If you're pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant, avoid traveling to places where the virus is circulating (Source : Vox)
Zika virus, a virus related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses, has been a major public health concern since the possible link between the Zika virus infection in pregnancy and microcephaly in fetuses and new borns. Although zika–microcephaly link is not scientifically proven yet, most experts agree that it is highly likely that there is a link. Microcephaly is defined as abnormal smallness of the head and is a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. Zika–Microcephaly link came to light when the microcephaly cases jumped to thousands compare to a few hundred in previous years.

Before zika–microcephaly link was put forward, zika virus was not a concern at all because in adults, the virus causes mostly no symptoms or symptoms are mild.

What makes Singapore vulnerable is the aedes mosquito population here. This is the same mosquito responsible for the transmission of the dengue virus. Zika virus scare came at a time when 2016 aedes mosquito population and dengue fever cases exploded due to warmer than usual rainy season. The Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore is now introducing measures to guard against the Zika virus taking hold in Singapore.

Currently there is no detected cases in Singapore but the passenger traffic between the effected countries is large and Zika virus is already detected in many tourists returning from Latin America to Europe. It doesn't help that in South-east Asia, some zika cases have been detected in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Malaysia and Thailand in recent years.

Zika virus Singapore - aedes mosquito (aedes aegypti)
Females of Aedes aegypti a.k.a  yellow fever mosquito is the principal vector for dengue fever. Aedes mosquitos are also vectors for zika virus.
Once established, zika virus would be very difficult to eradicate from an area since aedes mosquito is constantly present here. NEA says "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".

Singapore authorities have advised returning travellers from affected areas to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of Zika such as fever, skin rash, joint and muscle pain, headache and red eyes. But 80% of the adults with the virus shows no symptoms at all, so it will be a difficult task to isolate the infected people. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dengue in Singapore

Warm weather conditions have caused significant increase in dengue cases in Singapore in January 2016. In the week ending 16 January 2016, 628 dengue cases were reported which is higher than the cases in the same week in 2013 (last major outbreak in Singapore was 2013 dengue outbreak).

Warmer weather conditions are causing faster breeding and maturing cycle for aedes mosquitoes and there is thus an increase in the mosquito population.

What is Dengue Fever?

 Dengue Fever and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (a more severe form) is an illness caused by infection with a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. There are four serotypes of this virus (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4) which can infect you.

There is currently no drug for dengue but there is an intense effort to develop a dengue vaccine. Most cases follow a classic, non-fatal virus infection but in a small proportion of the cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

Aedes aegypti a.k.a  yellow fever mosquito

Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally Aedes aegypti. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on its legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the upper surface of the thorax (see below image). Also follow the link if you want to check out how does aedes mosquito looks like.

Aedes aegypti a.k.a  yellow fever mosquito
Females of Aedes aegypti a.k.a  yellow fever mosquito is the principal vector for dengue fever.
Active Dengue Clusters in Singapore

Singapore government hangs these big banners with red, green and yellow dots in dengue clusters *(see color coded dengue alert system) but these are easy to miss. Checking active dengue clusters in Singapore in National Environment Agency's Dengue page can help you to do simple plans to reduce your chance to have dengue. Today for example, I have realized that my workplace, my house and my kid's kindergarden are all just next to active dengue clusters only after checking the active dengue clusters web page. This means no outside park play around my house and kindergarden as well as using bus instead of walking from work to MRT.  

Reduce cost of car ownership in Singapore

Car is an expensive item to buy and maintain but if you think you have to buy one in Singapore, consider the below tips to reduce your purchasing and maintenance cost.

Use HDB parking - There are plenty of housing areas around the island and there are usually enough number of available parking lots in HDB car parks. If you are traveling a lot for work, familiarizing yourself with nearest HDB parking lots will save you a lot of money. HDB carparks are free in the weekends and it costs only 10 Dollars for an all-day parking ticket.

Buy a pre-owned car - An affordable pre-owned car will be usually cheaper to buy. 10-year ownership of a new car in Singapore will have much higher monthly car loan payments. This is because a new car will be more expensive than a used car.

Pay your car loan faster - Singapore car loan rates is around 2.78% at the moment and early payment will provide better savings in the long run. This is because accumulated interest rate of car loans will be much higher for a longer loan repayment period.

Buy a fuel-efficient car - A Renault Kadjar uses only 3.9 litres per 100 km which amounts to 826 SGD per year compared to a more "normal car"which can use 2,683 SGD (assuming 20K kilometers per year usage).

Know your car - Using your car to the book and maintaining it in optimum conditions (regular engine oil checks, gentle driving habits, right tire pressure, keeping your car lightweight) will save you tonnes of money in the long run.

You do not need to drive every day - This seems financially obvious but when you have car, you can think of maximizing its usage by trying to use it everyday. This may be costly. For example a family trip to a nearby mall can be faster, cheaper and more comfortable with a taxi in a weekend than driving.