The Zika virus is now linked to possible birth defects: Get the facts right…

Zika fears — 6 facts

1. Zika is related to dengue and transmitted by mosquitos.
SmartParents consultant and Gleneagles Hospital Ob-Gyn Dr Christopher Chong says: “General precautions against mosquito bites should be taken — just like precautions for dengue.”

In fact, with dengue cases endemic and expected to spike this year, the Government has said: “There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control. Residents are urged to cooperate fully and allow NEA officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any infective mosquitoes.”
So don’t skimp in your Mozzie Wipe Out.

2. You probably wouldn’t know if you had Zika
Dr Chong says, “For the non-pregnant person, it is not as worrying and can be mild.” Symptoms include a slight fever, rash, conjuctivitis, headache as well as joint and muscle pain — and yes, that sounds like a whole lot of things including a flu or dengue (though Zika is said to be less painful).

During the first week of infection, the virus can be found in a sick person’s blood and passed from that infected person via a mosquito to someone else, through mosquito bites. Hospitalisation due to the virus is not common, while deaths are rare.

3. It can be sexually transmitted

Live virus has been found in semen up to two months after the man's Zika symptoms had disappeared. If you are pregnant and having sex with your husband, use a condom.

4. What are the scare headlines about, then?
The big worry is that there may be a connection between birth defects — specifically microcephaly, in which the foetus’ head is extremely small — and infection within the first trimester.

5. How do we protect ourselves?
Dr Chong says: “Women wanting conception or who are pregnant should avoid endemic countries.” The MOH has advised travellers — and especially those who are pregnant — to protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to countries with local transmission of Zika. These would include South America and the Caribbean, although small numbers of cases have been detected in East Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand, announced Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Amy Khor.

Travellers should try to wear clothing that covers the body and limbs, apply insect repellent, and sleep under mosquito nets or in rooms with wire-mesh screens.

6. Will it come to Singapore in a big way?
Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said that we cannot rule out the possibility of the Zika virus making its way here. “Singapore would be vulnerable to the potential import of the Zika virus, simply because Singaporeans travel a lot to the region and, of course, there are tourists here,” she said. Furthermore, cases have been found in neighbouring countries.

For more information, go to the NEA website on the Mozzie Wipe Out and see the latest Channel NewsAsia and TodayOnline stories

Photo: ING Images

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