IBTimes UK

The Zika virus, which spread panic in southern America by causing brain damage in infants known as microcephaly, will "inevitably" come to Singapore, Health Minister Amy Khor has warned.

The minister said the large number of tourist arrivals in the island Republic meant it was tough to close the door shut on the dreaded virus.

Speaking at the "Women Say No to Zika" seminar on Sunday in Singapore, Khor said the community has a role to play in reducing mosquito population and thus fending off the virus.

"The majority of breeding is still found in homes ... If you are travelling to countries which are affected by Zika virus, please make it a point to protect yourself against mosquito bites," she said, according to Channel New Asia.

"And if you are showing symptoms suggestive of dengue or Zika virus infection, please also see a doctor immediately. We all need to take measures to protect ourselves and our family," the minister added.

In February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the rise in cases of brain damage in newborn babies caused by Zika virus a global public health emergency.

Scientists have said it will be years before a Zika virus vaccine will be available in the market.

Mosquito-borne Zika virus has not been found in Singapore, but it has historically occurred in southeast Asia.

In the region, Vietnam reported its first cases of Zika virus infection earlier this month. Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and China have all repoted incidences of Zika virus.

Medical experts in Singapore have said the country is extremely vulnerable to Zika virus and that any outbreak will be far more serious than the current dengue crisis.

"Singapore is vulnerable to the virus simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region, and of course there are also tourists here," Senior minister Amy Khor said in January.

Zika virus facts

You get the disease when bitten by the infected Aedes mosquitoes. Usually only one in five people infected with the virus gets sick.

According to WHO, the symptoms of Zika fever consist of mild fever, rash (mostly maculo-papular), headaches, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia, and non-purulent conjunctivitis, occurring about three to twelve days after the mosquito vector bite.

Most cases are mild but the disease develops complications in certain cases, especially in pregnant women and newborn babies.

In Singapore, medical experts have said the country is extremely vulnerable to Zika virus.

In southeast Asia, Cambodia and Thailand have reported Zika virus and the disease has historically occurred in southeast Asia.

IBTimes UK