What is Zika?
Zika is a blood-borne virus that is predominantly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. These mosquitoes bite both during the day and night. Zika is also spread from mother to fetus. There is a small number of documented Zika cases acquired through sexual intercourse with another person who is infected with Zika.
Where is Zika found?
Zika is present globally, mostly in Brazil. But Zika is also found in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Singapore’s first confirmed Zika case was notified on the 27th August 2016. In the first 32 weeks of 2017, there has been 61 new cases of Zika notified to the MOH. In August 2017, there are 2 new clusters of Zika found in Serangoon North (read more).
What can Zika cause?
Most people infected with Zika have mild disease or no symptoms at all. This means that if we test a normal person, he might test positive for Zika, but feel perfectly healthy with no signs or symptoms.
The following symptoms can be seen for some patients:
- Joint pain
- Red eyes
- Muscle pain
Symptoms are rarely severe, and most people do not get sick enough to go to the hospital. Symptoms usually last for several days to a week. Once a person has been infected with Zika, he is likely to be protected from future infections.
- Birth defects, such as microcephaly, and stillbirth or miscarriage
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare disease of the neurological system
How can Zika be tested?
Routine testing of Zika is not recommended because most patients are asymptomatic or only have mild disease. However, for pregnant patients who display symptoms of Zika or have sexual exposure to male partners who are Zika-positive, Zika testing is recommended. For all other patients, Zika testing can be considered on a case by case basis. It is also important to note that Dengue and Chikungunya infection do produce similar symptoms to Zika.
Zika testing is either by blood sample or urine sample. Pregnant patients who fit the criteria qualify for subsidies for Zika testing. All other patients will be charged full amount for the Zika test. All positive cases will be notified to MOH for national-wide surveillance.
Treatment of Zika
No specific treatment for Zika is required. Your doctor may prescribe medications to relief fever and bodyaches or other symptoms of Zika.
For patients suspected of GBS, they should be referred early to a Neurologist to manage the GBS.
For pregnant patients, they should return to their Obstetrician for follow-up or referred to an Obstetrician within a week.
Prevention of Zika
The spread of Zika can be prevented by preventing the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes eg. frequent checks and removal of stagnant water.
Patients can prevent mosquito bites by using long clothing, mosquito repellents (containing one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone), and mosquito nets etc.
Travellers returning from areas with ongoing outbreaks of Zika should adopt safe sex practices eg. correct use of condoms, or abstinence from sex for 8 weeks after return. For patients diagnosed with Zika, they should abstain from having sex for at least 6 months. Travellers should monitor themselves for 14 days and see a doctor if any symptoms of Zika (rash, fever, joint or muscle aches) are experienced.