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Expert: Densely packed SG easy for high number Zika cases even with few mosquitoes flying

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

More countries have joined in to advise their citizens against travelling to Singapore because of the explosive Zika outbreak.

In addition to UK, Australia, Taiwan and South Korea (https://theindependent.sg.sg/4-countries-warn-its-citizens-against-travelling-to-singapore), US, Indonesia and the Philippines have also warned their citizens about travelling to Singapore.

The US CDC has raised its advisory level for Singapore to level 2 of 3 and asked pregnant women not to go to Singapore, as the number of confirmed Zika cases hit 115 here. ST reported today that 1 pregnant woman had been infected. Zika has been known to have caused microcephaly in babies born.

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The US CDC also warned that sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible. Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has issued a similar advisory but stopped short of warning against travel to Singapore.

In the Philippines, the health department has advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to Singapore while in Indonesia, its Health Minister Nila Moloek has also advised its citizens against traveling to Singapore.

“Anyone who wish to travel [to Singapore] may want to reconsider, but if it’s urgent then we can’t stop them. But if possible, it’s better to delay [trips to Singapore],” said Indonesian Health Minister. She also instructed that all travellers coming from Singapore into Indonesia be medically examined at all points of entries.

Why is Zika spreading so fast in Singapore?

Meanwhile, CNN interviewed medical experts to find out why Zika is spreading so fast in Singapore.

“Immunities to the Zika virus are low in Singapore, and if you don’t have the immunity to provide the roadblocks then it’s likely that the virus will spread fast,” Ooi Eng Eong, the deputy director of the Emerging Infectious Disease program at Duke-NUS Medical School told CNN.

Ooi also said that the Zika virus’ rapid spread in Singapore was likely down to its similarities with the dengue virus.

“Zika is very closely related to dengue. It has all the genetic traits that would allow it to spread where dengue thrives — the virus can infect and spread through the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue virus,” said Ooi.

With its 5.7 million-strong population packed mostly in crowded urban areas, containing Zika’s spread in Singapore is a challenge.

“In Singapore, many people live in densely packed apartment blocks so it’s easy for high numbers of people to get infected even if there are only a few mosquitoes flying around,” explained Ooi further.

While news of Zika outbreak in Singapore may have dampened the mood of those in the tourism industry, the outbreak has become an unlikely boon for others.

“The repellents are flying off the shelves,” said a local businessman.

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