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Singapore confirms 26 new cases of Zika virus

A worker sprays insecticide at an area where locally transmitted Zika cases were discovered in Singapore. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Singapore Aug 30, 2016, 05.44 PM (IST)

Singapore has reported 26 new cases of the Zika virus increasing the overall count of the mosquito-borne disease to 82, the country's Ministry of health and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said. 

The country reported its first case of locally-transmitted Zika over the weekend, and the number of confirmed infections has risen steadily since then. At least three dozen patients have made a full recovery. Some of the new cases have been detected beyond Singapore's south-east Aljunied area where the initial outbreak took place. Many of the initial cases were foreign workers on a construction project.

The Singapore government has not said where the infected foreign workers are from. The foreign ministry directed queries to the health ministry, which did not respond to Reuters questions on the issue. 

The city-state has stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. Teams of NEA inspectors have been visiting homes to check for mosquito breeding sites, and imposed fines to Sg$5,000 ($3,700) where these have been found. Pest controllers have saturated affected estates with insecticide. The NEA said it had inspected 5,000 out of 6,000 homes in the affected cluster by Monday and destroyed 39 breeding sites.

Several countries have advised pregnant women or those trying to conceive to avoid travelling to the city-state. Australia, Taiwan and South Korea issued travel warnings, and Singapore advised pregnant women to take a free Zika test if they showed any symptoms or if their partners tested positive. "This is regardless of whether they have been to Zika-affected areas," the statement said.

Neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have said they will monitor visitor arrivals from Singapore, while Taiwan and Australia have issued travel advisories warning against travel to the city-state.

Singapore's Tourism Board, meanwhile, says it is premature to consider any impact on the sector, adding it remained a "safe travel destination".

Despite being one of Southeast Asia's cleanest cities and having the highest health-care centres in the world, the tropical island has a chronic problem with dengue fever.  Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water that collects in construction sites, open space and homes. 

The country's first reported case of Zika in May involved a man who had visited Sao Paulo in Brazil earlier in the year.

Zika, which has been detected in 58 countries, causes only mild symptoms such as fever and rash for most people but has been linked to a rare form of birth defect, microcephaly, in Brazil.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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