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Zika Virus Alert: What We Need to Know and Do

Singapore gets hit by its first case of Zika virus so ignorance is not going to be bliss anymore for us in Malaysia

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Zika Virus Alert: What We Need to Know and Do
Fogging at Aljunied Crescent, Singapore. (Image: todayonline.com)
Hot on the heels of Hong Kong’s first alleged case of Zika on August 25, 2016 (though the woman subsequently tested negative for the virus), our island-state neighbor, Singapore, is next to fall prey to the threat of this mosquito-related disease. 
 
Aedes aegypti mosquito. (Image: lawandtheworkplace.com)
The Star reported on 27 August, 2016 that a Malaysian woman working in the city-state and living at Block 102 Aljunied Crescent was confirmed as not only Singapore’s first case of locally transmitted Zika virus victim as she has not travelled to any Zika-affected locations recently, but also its first female case. A day later on 28 August, 2016 according to The Star, Singapore released more dire Zika news by confirming 41 cases of Zika-infected residents or workers in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area. This has come out of a total of 124 people being tested on August 27, and 36 of the 41 confirmed positive are foreign construction workers. None of the infected have travelled to Zika-prone areas, pointing again to local transmission.

What To Know About Zika Virus

How Zika Virus Started

According to BBC, Zika was first identified in Uganda in 1947 not in humans but monkeys. In 1954, the first human case surfaced in Nigeria, spreading from Africa to Pakistan and South East Asia (between 1977-78) and the Pacific Islands (in 2007 and 2013) before landing in Brazil in May 2015. Countries that have been affected by the Zika virus so far include Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela. The latest report occurred at the end of July with 14 cases in Miami. 
 
Map showing Zika-affected areas around the world. (Image: bbc.com)

How Zika Virus Spreads

The Aedes mosquito is the culprit of the Zika Virus, and it is also the cause for the spread of dengue and chikungunya virus. It is also called the yellow fever mosquito, where yellow fever virus can lead to jaundice, bleeding and multiple organ failure in some cases. The insect is prevalent all over the Americas except in places that are very cold like Canada and Chile. Apparently, an astonishing 390 million people get infected with dengue annually, from bites by Aedes aegypti
 
Lab samples in testing for Zika virus. (Image: thestar.com.my)
Zika can also be sexually transmitted, according to BBC reports, and the World Health Organization declared it a global public health emergency in February this year. Other bodily fluids like saliva and urine have also been found to contain Zika virus but it is not confirmed if they are a means for the virus to spread though. Though Zika doesn’t have severe effects on most people, it can prove fatal for unborn children. It has been linked to severe birth defects and is suspected of causing microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with small heads and underdeveloped brains. 
 
Baby with microcephaly. (Image: aljazeera.com)
Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nervous system disorder causing temporary paralysis is also being linked to the Zika virus. Unfortunately, sometimes detection of Zika virus infection is not immediately known as about four in five persons will not display symptoms despite being infected. Zika symptoms include viral fever, skin rashes, body aches, joint pains, chills, conjunctivitis and headache. At this point in time, no vaccine or drug treatment exists to treat Zika infection.

As reported by BBC, US experts from the National Institutes of Health have said that trials of a Zika vaccine is likely to start this September. They further added that “the very, very best scenario” would be vaccine ready for the general public by the beginning of 2018.

How To Prevent Zika Virus

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is apparently an urban-dwelling creature, much like cockroaches and pigeons, flourishing in built-up areas. All it takes is a small pool of stagnant water in drains or flower pots for the dreaded insect to lay its eggs and breed. Standard vector control operations to banish the Zika-spreading Aedes mosquito and stop it from breeding can take the form of misting, fogging and increasing the frequency of flushing and oiling drains. As there’s no available treatment as yet, the ‘best’ solution is really to mitigate the risk of being bitten, so the use of insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved clothing and keeping windows and doors closed are easy preventive steps to take. Also, as the mosquitoes breed or lay their eggs in still water, it is advisable to keep any buckets or flower pots free of water. FDA or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also called for donated Whole Blood and blood components to be tested for Zika virus. 
 
Infographic showing how Zika virus gets transmitted. (Image: bbc.com)
 
 
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