Our battle against Zika: It’s a team effort involving everyone!
The Zika outbreak at the Sims Drive/Aljunied Crescent area the past week must have been unsettling for many. What seems like a remote possibility has now become a dreaded reality. But let us face up to the challenge squarely – Zika is here and has spread within the community. It was a team effort between my colleagues, MOH & CDC that enabled us to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. While we are glad to unravel the mystery that had baffled us for the past 2 weeks, it also means that the real battle has just begun.
In the next few weeks, the daily new Zika cases is critical not just in terms of the absolute numbers, but also in its demographic profile. It’ll tell us whether Zika is still contained to one localized area or whether it is spreading to neighbouring districts or other parts of Singapore. While we look with bated breath at the daily MOH figures, we should also resolve to double-up our efforts on 2 fronts – managing positive cases to prevent transmission and intensifying vector control.
Yesterday, while my colleagues and I were still combing through our clinic patients’ records to identify possible Zika cases we’d missed earlier, there were many NEA officers working in pairs under the hot sun, inspecting every nook and corner to eradicate mosquito breeding. Their jobs were no less significant than ours. Similarly, we can all contribute and play a crucial role by keeping our environment clean to prevent mosquito breeding and practise social responsibility to halt community transmission.
Therefore, it is neither helpful nor productive to engage in finger-pointing or apportioning blame during this critical juncture. Through our interactions with the relevant authorities, we know that allegations of cover up are baseless and unmerited. All the relevant agencies have mobilised their personnel and resources to the best of their ability and provided information timely. It is also not possible to identify Patient Zero or trace the actual chain of transmission as the majority of infected persons (80%) have symptoms that are mild or may not exhibit any at all.
Here are a few suggestions.
1) Unless you live or work in Sims Drive, Aljunied Crescent, Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way, avoid these areas. Please do not go to these areas to hunt for Pokemons! We need to do everything we can to contain the outbreak so that there will be no new clusters in other parts of Singapore.
2) Unless you are sick with symptoms of fever, joint pain, rash or sore eyes and living within the affected area, you should not go to the Communicable Disease Centre for Zika screening. Your trusted GPs are good and competent gatekeepers who can assess whether screening is necessary. This is to ensure that our colleagues at CDC are not overwhelmed with patients and relevant cases can be attended to quickly.
3) If you exhibit symptoms, please be bold and see a doctor for assessment. If infected, you are doing everyone a great service through prompt case recognition and management so that you will not further infect your loved ones and friends. Breaking the chain of transmission is the key to eradicating this outbreak. For most patients, Zika is self-limiting and rarely fatal.
Lets all do our part so that hopefully, Zika does not take root here and become endemic like dengue and thus difficult to eradicate. It’s a team effort and we can all play a part.