Singapore authorities reported 27 more cases of Zika virus infection on Sunday, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 242. The sudden spread of Zika is alarming after Singapore’s first confirmed case a week ago.
Singapore, a tropical city-state in Southeast Asia, is extremely prone to mosquito-borne diseases since frequent rains provide mosquitos with a humid habitat for breeding. As Zika virus can be passed to local mosquitos through infected humans, confirmed cases increased exponentially within a week. Fortunately, the country’s ministry of health has clear procedures for dealing with other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and Japanese Encephalitis, and is currently destroying mosquito breeding habitats.
According to Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of World Health Organization’s Health Emergency Program, the strain of Zika in Singapore may be different from the one that swept across South America, and its symptoms remain unknown. People infected with the strain in Brazil have few symptoms, but the disease has led to serious impairments like Guillain-Barré syndrome (paralysis). Pregnant mothers pass the virus on to their fetuses, causing birth defects, including various cases of anencephaly. Scientists are unsure the impact Zika virus could have in Singapore.
Previously, Zika had not been known to cause any severe health problems and the test for Zika was only developed a year ago. The global community was unprepared to deal with the epidemic when it spread rapidly in Brazil last fall.