Singapore reports first imported case of Zika virus

The news of the arrival of Zika virus in Singapore spooks residents.

Singapore has reported the first imported case of Zika virus in the country. The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Friday a 48-year-old man who returned from Sao Paulo in Brazil was diagnosed with Zika symptoms.

"The patient is a 48-year-old male Singapore Permanent Resident who had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil from Mar 27 to May 7. The patient developed fever and rash from May 10 and was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on May 12 and isolated," a joint statement by the agencies said.

The patient is recovering fast and is isolated to prevent the spread of the virus in the community.

The patient hails from Watten Estate, which is not considered as an active cluster in terms of Aedes mosquito population. However, the health agencies are screening his household members.

"We advise residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health," the agencies added in a statement.

Channel News Asia said the news spooked the residents in the area. One resident, a 3-month pregnant woman, told the channel: "I'm also four months pregnant so I'm quite worried about this, but there are only so many precautions I can take."

Her husband said the Watten Rise and Shelford Road areas teemed with mosquito population. "There are a lot of mosquitoes in this area. One walk around the nearby park, and you get 20 bites in one minute," he said.

Aedes mosquito also transmits dengue. Singapore diagnoses hundreds of dengue cases each month.

Zika virus spread panic in southern America by causing brain damage in infants known as microcephaly. 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.

The virus doesn't spread directly from person to person. Vaccines are not available to counter the disease and there is no specific treatment for it. Meanwhile, scientists in the US, who likened Zika outbreak to the Ebola crisis, said it could be years before a vaccine is publicly available.

Singapore's Health Minister Amy Khor warned last month that Zika virus will "inevitably" come to Singapore.

Zika 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.

The disease has spread to Europe with a Danish resident being diagnosed with the virus. The patient had traveled to Central and South America.

In Germany and Portugal too Zika virus has been found in people who returned from South America. As many as six cases have been reported in UK, Public Health England has said.