Zika in Singapore: Residents of potential new cluster rattled

Fumigation being conducted at Bedok North Avenue 3. (Photo: Sharlene Maria Sankaran / Yahoo Newsroom)

Almost a week after the first locally transmitted Zika cases in Singapore were announced, the threat of the virus’ arrival in Bedok North Avenue 3 has left residents there worried and uncertain.

On Wednesday (31 August), the Ministry of Health announced that the number of confirmed Zika cases in Singapore had hit 115, including the first pregnant woman to be diagnosed.

Three cases were also diagnosed in Bedok North Avenue 3, which led to the start of vector control operations on Thursday (1 September).

National Environment Agency (NEA) personnel were seen fumigating the area in the morning, while East Coast-Fengshan Town Council staff went door-to-door   distributing insect repellent and informational flyers.

In contrast to Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive residents the day after 41 Zika cases there were announced, those living in the new cluster told Yahoo Singapore that they were worried by new developments.

At Block 404, NEA personnel entered the flat of Mardina Ng, 17, to spray insecticide in the toilets and other areas. “After hearing that there are cases in the area, it’s kind of scary. It can happen to anyone, and we have to do our part,” said the polytechnic student.

East Coast-Fengshan Town Council staff were seen going door-to-door in the area giving out mosquito repellent and informational flyers. (Photo: Sharlene Maria Sankaran / Yahoo Newsroom)

Vector controls

The proximity of the virus made residents such as Koo Quee Huay, 74, nervous. Koo, who works at a laundry shop and lives at Block 413, said, “Of course I am worried since now Zika is so close to my home. I think it’s good that the government is fogging this area because it will reduce the risk of Zika.”

Others like retiree Maisie Khng, 70, questioned the effectiveness of fumigation. She pointed out, “Mosquitoes are very hard to control. I don’t know how useful fogging is, because they do it all the time but there is still dengue.”

Khng had her own scare, as she contracted a viral fever and rashes before the first Zika cases were announced over the weekend. She returned to a doctor to check on her condition, but was told she did not have Zika.

Businessman Alan Teo, 67, said he had been taking precautions at home such as keeping pails overturned and covering laundry pole holders. But the father of two questioned if the authorities were getting to the root of the problem.

“I think they are doing all they can, but I can’t understand how there can suddenly be so many cases,” he said.

Father of three Chan Pui Yee, 50, also noted that despite the first Zika case being reported in July, we heard about the other cases only a week ago. “I guess I’m not that surprised because Bedok North is quite close to Aljunied,” he said. 

No panic yet

But it is not quite time to panic yet. A quick check with 10 clinics in the area showed that they had not seen patients with Zika symptoms of late, nor were there any pregnant patients who were symptomatic.

Residents such as housewife Chee H. M., 34, who lives at Block 413, were also unperturbed. She said, “I have kids and we are not planning to have more, so I’m not very concerned. We also live on a high floor, so there are not many mosquitoes.”

A retiree who wished to be known only as Mr Leong, 70, said in Mandarin, “I was not sure about it at first, but I think the government’s response is quite fast. Whether it’s enough, I don’t know. We are used to this kind of thing, because people here do get dengue.”

Additional reporting by Sharlene Maria Sankaran