Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan have issued advisories to their citizens against traveling to Singapore after a recent outbreak of the Zika virus in the Asian city-state.
Singaporean health officials announced on Aug. 29 that the number of locally transmitted Zika cases in the city has now reached 56 with the addition of 15 new cases.
The advisories warn expectant mothers and women who are planning to get pregnant to exercise all precautionary measures to avoid contracting the Zika virus when visiting Singapore. They are also advised to forgo any travel plans to the city-state, especially when it is not considered essential.
Individuals who visited Singapore recently and have returned to their home country are advised not to get pregnant for two months. Tourists from South Korea will receive text messages regarding the advisory when they arrive in the city-state.
The Tourism Board of Singapore said that it is closely monitoring developments in Zika transmission and stressed that the city-state remains a "safe travel destination." It also considers any travel advisory to be premature as it is still too early to determine the impact of the recent cases.
Officials in nearby Indonesia and Malaysia, however, are not taking any risks when it comes to the spread of the Zika virus. Both countries have introduced measures, such as the placement of thermal scanners at border checkpoints and airports, to prevent the entry of the infection to their territories following the outbreak in Singapore.
New Zika Cases In Singapore
According to Singapore's Ministry of Health, the new Zika cases involved people who either work or live in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area southeast of the city-state. A report said that most of them were foreigners employed under the local construction company GuocoLand.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has inspected the living quarters of foreign workers as well as surrounding premises. Officials sprayed insecticide in the area and removed any potential breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes, such as stagnant water or moist dirt in abandoned drains.
On Aug. 28, the local government issued an order to halt all work being done in the GuocoLand-owned construction site, where most of the infected foreign workers are staying. The company should also rectify the conditions in the area, which led to the breeding of the Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
Health experts warn that it will be difficult to get an accurate assessment of Zika transmission cases in Southeast Asia because of the inability of local health agencies to properly screen for potential infections.