Singapore: Zika virus outbreak not imported from South America
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Singapore: Zika virus outbreak not imported from South America

THE mosquito-borne Zika virus that has been spreading across Singapore in recent weeks was not imported from South America, the government said.

The Health Ministry said the finding was based on a sequencing analysis of the virus found in two patients from the Aljunied Crescent and the Sims Drive cluster.

The analysis, conducted by the National Public Health Laboratory and the A*STAR’s Bioinformatics Institute, found that the virus belongs to the Asian lineage and likely evolved from the strain that was already circulating in Southeast Asia.

“The virus from these two patients was not imported from South America,” the ministry said in a weekend statement.

“The research team will release more details shortly.”

As at Sept 4, the ministry confirmed 27 new cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in Singapore. Of these, 25 cases are linked to the Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Kallang Way, and the Paya Lebar Way cluster, the ministry said.

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“There is a potential new cluster involving one previously reported case and a new case today (Sunday). They both live in the Joo Seng Road area,” the ministry said, adding the other new case has no known links to any existing cluster.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has been conducting vector control operations to control the Aedes mosquito population in the affected clusters.

As of Sept 3, the ministry said, 62 breeding habitats – comprising 36 in homes and 26 in common areas and other premises – have been detected and destroyed. NEA officers and volunteers are also continuing with outreach efforts in Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way.

The vector control activities included indoor spraying of insecticides, outdoor fogging, and oiling and flushing of drains.

In Bedok North Avenue, 39 breeding habitats – comprising 29 in homes and 10 in common areas – were detected and destroyed as at Sept 3.

On Friday, the World Health Organization said the outbreak of Zika remains an international health emergency and noted that the virus is continuing to infect new countries.

The U.N. health agency convened its expert committee this week to assess the latest status of the epidemic.

Dr. David Heymann, the committee’s chair, said considerable gaps remain in understanding Zika and the complications it causes — including brain-damaged babies — and WHO concluded that the outbreak remains a global emergency.

WHO noted that Brazil has not reported any confirmed cases of Zika following the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, although studies are ongoing in the country to figure out why certain regions have seen an increase in babies being born with abnormally small heads.

To date, Zika has infected 72 countries and territories.

Additional reporting from the Associated Press

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