There has been a sudden outbreak of the Zika virus in Singapore. In just a period of a single week, cases in Singapore jumped from zero to 258 – which is very alarming! This means that Asia could be in for a rapid surge of the disease; a disease dangerous for unborn babies.
No one has been able to yet nail down why the sudden surge in cases has occurred, but it is thought the transmission is from the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that lives in the area.
An Ever Changing Virus
The tricky thing about a virus is its ability to change and adapt. When it gets passed from one person to another it changes slightly, and that may be what has caused this sudden surge in the number of cases. Singapore’s Ministry of Health has analysed two cases they believe evolved from the strain of Zika that is already going around Southeast Asia.
The first case in this new outbreak was a 58-year-old woman from Malaysia who had just visited her daughter in Singapore. It is believed that this is the first in what could be many, many more cases of this new strain of Zika.
A State of Emergency
The World Health Organization declared a global state of emergency over the Zika virus in February of 2016. It predicted there would be 4 million new cases by the end of the year. That looks to be coming true since Singapore isn’t alone in Asia in reporting new cases of Zika. And in Brazil, Zika has been declared a national public health emergency, with the number of babies born with birth defects continuing to rise every day.
The Problem with Urban Areas
Asia has a huge population of people, many of whom are packed densely into large cities – cities that happen to be the preferred home of the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus. That’s what makes Zika such a huge concern to health officials – the mosquitoes that carry the disease love urban area and that makes these urban areas a hub for the virus to spread worldwide.
Prevention is Key
Officials in Asia are asking people to take precautions to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus as well as dengue fever, a disease spread by the same mosquito. The government has been urging people to:
- Wear mosquito repellent
- Get rid of stagnant water
Of course, containing the spread of this virus changes from country to country. The mosquito that carries Zika can breed in almost any conditions and in very small amounts of water. In countries where fresh water is limited and sanitation is poor, this can present quite a challenge.
What We Can Learn
The Zika epidemic is global, and even though Asia is far away from the place you might call home the outbreak of Zika in Asia should be a concern. Many countries at high risk of outbreaks simply don’t have the infrastructure to support a widespread prevention program. That’s why it’s important for the international community to step in and help, understanding that what happens in Asia could easily impact the lives of people all over the world.
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