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. 

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