Ask the doctor: Should I still worry about the Zika virus in Singapore during my pregnancy?

Ask the Doctor-IMC-HONEYKIDS ASIA 2017

While living in Singapore means year-long barbecue-friendly weather and impromptu trips to the beach, the tropical climate also comes with health concerns such as dengue, and well-defined flu seasons. If you are picking colours for the nursery after a long wait, or are hoping for those two elusive lines to appear, you may be worried about the Zika virus that caused an alarm recently. We spoke to Dr. Sri Jakka at the International Medical Clinic, to get an update on whether you should be concerned about the Zika virus, its symptoms and how you can protect yourself.

What do I need to know about Zika?
Zika is not a newly discovered virus – the first human case was detected in the 1950s, and there have been outbreaks over the years in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. While previous outbreaks were small, and not considered a major threat, the virus spread rapidly after the outbreak in Brazil in 2015. In 2016, the first case of Zika was reported in Singapore.

How does the virus spread?
The Zika virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family of viruses. Its better-known members are Dengue, West Nile and Yellow Fever viruses. The Zika virus is spread by the bite of the female Aedes mosquito. The mosquito carries the virus from the blood of one infected person, and transmits it to other human hosts. Symptoms usually appear three to 12 days after the mosquito bite, and include slight fever, skin rashes, muscle and joint pains, headaches and redness of the eyes. The virus causes sickness for four to seven days, but most adults and kids experience only mild discomfort. Zika can be more serious for pregnant women, with evidence linking the virus to microcephaly of the unborn foetus.

What can I do to protect myself and my baby?
There is no specific line of treatment for Zika, so the best defence is reducing the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

Doctors and health officials suggest:

  • Using insect repellents.
  • Wearing light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing.
  • Avoiding gardens and green areas at dawn and dusk.
  • Keeping windows and doors closed if you live in an area of mosquito infestation.
  • Taking care to ensure there is no stagnant water in your home, or garden, which can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

If you suspect that you have symptoms of Zika, please visit your GP immediately for an assessment. The doctor will then advise you take a urine test to confirm if you’re carrying the virus, and offer guidance on follow-up measures.

How do I choose the right mosquito repellent to protect myself and my kids?
It’s important to use a repellant that has the correct dosage of DEET to protect yourself against mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Zika, Dengue Fever, and Malaria. Use products with 15-20% DEET for maximum protection, or 10% Picaridin to stay safe. IMC stocks the RID insect repellent range in all its clinics, which contains the correct dosage of DEET to help protect you for up to six hours. For children, there is a Kids RID Repellent that contains fewer chemicals, is alcohol free, and has a special medication to offer maximum protection from mosquitoes.

What are the latest statistics for Singapore, and do I need to be worried?
After the first reported case of Zika in August 2016, 458 cases were reported by the end of 2016. Official reports from the Ministry of Health indicate a decline in Zika cases, with only a total of 17 pregnant women diagnosed last year. Given these facts, the actual risk of contracting Zika is quite low currently, however it is advised pregnant women avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.

Where can I get updates on the Zika virus in Singapore?
Make sure to check the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention’s website which regularly updates information across the world, including Singapore. IMC always informs patients if there is an increased concern regarding the Zika virus, or check the for information.


Dr Sri Jakka completed his Paediatric degree in 2002, and is a Member and Fellow of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He has worked as a Consultant Paediatrician in London and Hyderabad, before moving to Singapore. Dr. Jakka is based in IMC Camden, and has a special interest Paediatric respiratory diseases including asthma.


Like this story? Here’s more stories from our Ask the doctor series, with International Medical Clinic.
Vaccinations you should take if you’re pregnant
Trying to get pregnant but having no luck – should I worry?

This post is sponsored by International Medical Clinic


Illustration: Aliff Tee for HoneyKids Asia