Singapore has reported a spike in cases of locally transmitted Zika virus. The infection only causes mild symptoms in humans but is dangerous for pregnant women as it's been linked to serious birth defects.
Singapore has confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus, the city-state's health ministry said Sunday.
All of the cases related to residents or workers within the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area, a suburban residential and industrial district, authorities said. Some 36 of the cases were from foreign laborers who worked in the area.
"They are not known to have traveled to Zika-affected areas recently, and are thus likely to have been infected in Singapore," the statement added. "This confirms that local transmission of Zika virus infection has taken place."
Dozens of National Environment Agency (NEA) technicians cleaned drains and sprayed insecticide in the mainly residential area early on Sunday, and volunteers and contractors handed out leaflets and insect repellent.
Residents said they were reassured by the visible anti-mosquito effort.
"I'm very scared of mosquitoes because they always seem to bite me, they never bite my husband," Janice, 31, who gave only her first name, told the Reuters news agency. "This concerns me because maybe in a couple of years I want to have another (child)."
Singapore reported the first imported case of the Zika virus infection in May after a 48-year-old man contracted the virus after a visit to Brazil earlier in the year. On Saturday, health officials say they confirmed the first case of local transmission and expect the mosquito-borne virus to spread.
"(The Ministry of Health) cannot rule out further community transmission in Singapore since some of those tested positive also live or work in other parts of Singapore," the statement said. "We expect to identify more positive cases."
Authorities say they have tested 124 people, primarily construction workers, with 78 testing negative and five cases pending, the report read. In all, 34 patients have fully recovered.
The current strain of the Zika virus that is sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean originated in Asia, where epidemiologists speculate people could have built up greater immunity.
jar/jlw (Reuters, AFP)