Cases of the Zika virus in Singapore have risen to 82, twice the number of cases confirmed by the island state just three days ago, according to reports.
On Tuesday, the U.S. joined a growing list of countries to issue travel warnings to mums-to-be or those trying to get pregnant, as the Zika infection can have serious consequences on pregnant women and their unborn children.
If infected, the virus is thought to cause microcephaly, a congenital condition that causes incomplete brain development. Babies with the infection are typically born with abnormally small heads.
According to Straits Times, 26 cases were confirmed yesterday, five involving people living or working in Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way, which is north of Aljunied and Sims Drive.
On Sunday, a Malaysian woman living and working in Aljunied was identified as the first known case of a person who was infected locally by the mosquito-borne virus, the report said.
A Reuters report said apart from the U.S., other countries that have issued travel warnings to pregnant women include Australia, Taiwan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, Singapore has advised all pregnant women who develop fever and rash or other possible signs of Zika infection to get tested for the virus for free.
Straits Times’ report said that this is regardless whether they have been to the areas where Zika cases were reported. Those whose male partners are found to be carrying the virus should also get tested.
The island nation’s Health Ministry has also updated its guidelines, following the spike in cases.
Among others, expectant mothers are advised to “undertake strict precautions against mosquito bites”, which includes wearing clothes that covers the limbs, sleeping in mosquito nets or in air-conditioned rooms.
Singapore had on Sunday confirmed that 41 people have been infected by virus and that most had recovered.
The first Zika infection in Singapore was announced in May. The virus, according to reports, had been imported by a 48-year-old man who had traveled to Brazil.
Zika is typically mild and seldom causes death, but shares symptoms with its vastly more fatal cousin, dengue – a common viral scourge in tropical Southeast Asia. Both are viruses are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This makes nations ordinarily ravaged by dengue particularly vulnerable to Zika as well.
Zika and dengue are both endemic to tropical climates, and patients tend to display similar symptoms, such as muscle and joint pain, rashes, headaches and fever. Southeast Asian countries have had cases of Zika as recently as 2010.
However, the outbreak of the Zika virus in South America and its suspected link to causing microcephaly among babies has raised serious health concerns around the world.
There are no vaccines for either disease, though researchers are currently carrying out clinical testing in regions vulnerable to the viruses.