The Zika virus outbreak in Singapore is worse than initially feared after authorities confirm 56 cases that are believed to be locally transmitted.
The first report of a locally transmitted case came when a 47-year-old Malaysian woman tested positive on Saturday, according to the Singaporean Ministry Of Health. The following day brought 40 more cases, the majority of whom are foreign construction workers. By Tuesday, the tally had risen to 56, Reuters reports.
All of these cases were found in the Aljunied area of the city-state. The latest figures say 34 of the infected have recovered, although many still remain in hospital.
The island city-state of Singapore reported their first Zika case in May. However, these recent cases are believed to be the first locally transmitted infections.
Zika is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, however there have been cases of sexual transmission. These two species of mosquito are native to tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and Southeast Asia, respectively, although both can now be found throughout the world. They are characterized by white, stripe-like markings on their legs and bodies.
In general, around 80 percent of people with Zika virus will not show any symptoms. The remaining 20 percent might suffer from a fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, headache, and muscle pain lasting up to a week. The real issue comes with other complications linked to the virus. The most publicized of which is microcephaly, where newborn babies are born with an abnormally small brain and head. Increased incidences of Guillan-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, have also been linked to Zika infections.
Due to mosquitoes being the leading cause of transmission, blocks of high-rise apartments have been fumigated with insecticide by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and many residents have had their flats searched. There are also reports of chemists and markets running out of mosquito repellent.
“The NEA went to every house, checked the kitchen and bathroom. They gave us a small bottle of insect repellent, but we just went to get a big bottle today,” a 36-year-old local resident told Reuters. “I’m a little worried since my wife is trying to conceive. Zika seems to [spread] faster than dengue.”
Since 2015, 67 different countries and territories have reported cases. The World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency on February 1, 2016. It’s now feared that Zika could spread quickly throughout Southeast Asia, as cases are unlikely to be reported and local health infrastructure may struggle to prepare.