Singapore has become the latest area to have Zika descend upon it, and the country's health ministry has reported that it now has a total of 82 locally-transmitted cases of the virus as of Aug. 29.
This is quite the development for the Asian city-state, which didn't have any instances of the sort until just several days ago. If that wasn't bad enough, the amount of locally-transmitted cases is quite shocking when compared with other locations as well. Eighty-two doesn't seem like that large a number on paper, but it is almost twice that of the 43 cases reported in Florida, despite Singapore having only about one-fourth of its population — five million.
Unfortunately, officials believe this number will only increase as more people are tested in the coming days.
"Given that the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito vector, MOH cannot rule out further community transmission in Singapore, since some of those tested positive also live or work in other parts of Singapore," Singapore's health ministry said in a statement.
Singapore confirmed its first locally-transmitted case on Aug. 27, followed by 41 others the following day. By late Monday, the total amount of cases rose to 56 and increased further to the aforementioned 82 by late Tuesday.
Of those infected, three dozen of them were foreign construction workers at the Sims Urban Oasis apartments construction site where they worked and lived with more than 450 others. However, following reports of the outbreak, it has shut down.
However, while the site has been shut down — thus eliminating the chances of transmission through that method — there are still others ways the virus can spread. For example, it is known that many of the roughly 360,000 foreign workers in Singapore's building industry are from the Indian sub-continent, but the local government has yet to disclose to any other countries (such as India) and whether its nationals are among those diagnosed.
It's because of that, as well as the government's apparent lackadaisical approach to notifying the public, that prompted locals to call for improvements on its practice of public notice.
"Part of the reason that we have discovered more cases is because we have now gone back to the cases that were seen before by doctors. They were not suspected to have Zika, because they have no travel history and so on," health minister Gan Kim Yong told the local Today newspaper.
In the meantime, while the government's notifications may be wanting, its efforts to combat Zika itself have been anything but. As of Aug. 29, officials from Singapore's National Environment Agency have reportedly sprayed insecticide and inspected about 5,000 premises out of 6,000 in in the Sims Drive and Aljunied Crescent areas, as well as destroyed 39 potential mosquito-breeding spots and have served notices to 400 inaccessible buildings to arrange for inspection.
While Zika may be a new threat to fight in Singapore, locals are no stranger to mosquito-borne illnesses due to their longstanding battle with dengue fever.