S'pore 'vulnerable' to Zika virus: Amy Khor
SINGAPORE cannot rule out the possibility of the Zika virus making its way here, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday, as cases have been reported in neighbouring countries.
Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, added that the virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits dengue and is very common here.
"Singapore would be vulnerable to the potential import of the Zika virus, simply because our Singaporeans travel a lot to the region and, of course, there are tourists (from there) here," she said.
Apart from the outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean, small numbers of cases have been detected in east Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand, she noted.
The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Infections have generally been considered mild, with many of those who have the virus not showing any symptoms.
However, the virus has recently been associated with brain malformation in foetuses and infants of infected mothers in Brazil, sparking widespread concern. The link, however, has not yet been conclusively proven.
Infectious diseases physician Leong Hoe Nam said the symptoms of dengue and Zika infections are broadly similar. But Zika infections tend to be milder, with less severe muscle aches and back pains that are usually associated with dengue, He told The Straits Times.
Zika patients also tend to develop conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eyes.
He added that up to nine in 10 people infected with Zika may not show symptoms at all.
Yesterday, Dr Khor said while there have been no reported cases here yet, Singaporeans should remain vigilant.
"There could be undetected cases since the symptoms exhibited by infected persons could be mild, or some may not even exhibit (them)."
In a separate statement on the Zika virus, the Ministry of Health advised people, especially those who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to countries with local transmission.
They should wear clothing that covers the body and limbs, apply insect repellent and sleep under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens.