Officials play down Zika outbreak fears

Officials play down Zika outbreak fears

Singapore neighbours including Indonesia (above) are testing arrivals from the island state for the Zika virus upon arrival (Reuters photo)
Singapore neighbours including Indonesia (above) are testing arrivals from the island state for the Zika virus upon arrival (Reuters photo)

Public health authorities have played down fears of a Zika virus outbreak in Thailand following a rise in infections in Singapore.

Zika infection cases in Singapore were reported Wednesday to have surged to 82. The United States, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan have warned pregnant women not to travel to Singapore.

While there have been several transmissions of the disease in Thailand, there have been no serious outbreaks, said Apichai Mongkol, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences. The department's 14 laboratories are capable of testing and inspecting samples of the Zika virus using two common techniques.

One is a DNA test called real-time polymerase chain reaction in which results can be known in eight hours, while the other is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test that detects immune responses in the body, Dr Apichai said.

Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Amnuay Gajeena said the Zika virus situation in Thailand remains unchanged. New cases have been discovered but the transmissions have been contained following strict control measures.

An increase in the number of infected patients reflects the country's improved screening procedures and growing awareness among health workers, Dr Amnuay said.

According to the Public Health Ministry, 97 Zika cases were reported in Thailand from January to the end of June, compared with an average of five to seven each year in the past. Zika patients came from 16 of the country's provinces, but only four provinces still are on the transmission watch list.

The rest have completed their 28-day surveillance programme without new cases being reported, which means they have passed the virus's incubation period, Dr Amnuay said.

He dismissed information released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that categorises Thailand as having "increasing or widespread transmission" of the Zika virus.

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