RYAN URBAN WRITES – With such a neat-freak attitude, one would think Singaporeans would hardly have any bugs in its health system. But the ultra-clean rich city-state has yet to rid itself of the dangerous Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
Earlier this month, authorities in Singapore reported 151 cases of the Zika virus, sadly including a second pregnant woman. Then eight new cases of Zika popped up in several different regions in Singapore. According to the National Environment Agency‘s website at this writing (10/2/16), that brought Singapore to 356 cases, a substantial increase since Singapore’s first case in May.
Singapore is rightly famous for its impeccably clean streets and strictly inforced laws that promote public cleanliness. These laws forbid the sale of chewing gum (perhaps its most infamous), and allow law enforcement to fine and arrest people for littering, failing to flush public toilets, or urinating in public. In addition to a $1,000 fine, litterers receive “community work orders,” where they are forced to pick up trash in public, a punishment intended to publicly embarrass convicted litterers. Singaporeans can also be arrested for spitting or throwing cigarette butts on the street.
So how can there be so many cases of Zika in a city state like Singapore where cleanliness is god?
Clearly, the Singaporean government has done its absolute best to avoid a widespread outbreak of Zika. The government has deployed an excellent programs in most civil centers around the city-state to educate Singaporean citizens on how to prevent Zika-causing pests into the home. The state has reported each new outbreak of the disease by encouraging prominent members of the media to cover each case in great detail, along with providing full warnings to all citizens within the surrounding area of location of the virus and where it could potentially be. In theory, with such precautions in place, there should be no more cases of the Zika virus in Singapore.
Scientists studying the Singaporean outbreak still don’t know why the virus continues to spread. “Zika has been around since the 1960s,” said Hoe Nam Leong MBBS, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore. “The laboratories in Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment have been doing surveillance on this illness for several years, and as we have not isolated Zika in patients or in mosquitoes [until now], the connections are both loose and unknown.”
Most scientist studying Zika cases point to the presence of mosquitoes as being the primary link to Zika outbreak.Since the only way to pass on the virus is through blood, fast-flying mosquitoes who feed on the blood of both humans and animals are prime candidates for being carriers of the disease. The theory makes great sense but, of course, mosquitoes are phenomenally dirty insects that swarm around dirty farm animals and require sitting water to survive and reproduce. Furthermore Singapore as stated above is an ultra clean city-state with neither dirty farm animals nor large amounts of sitting water. Not to mention the Singaporean “vector control program” demands all citizens dump out sitting buckets of water and clean out the rain gutters of homes to ensure the complete elimination of stagnant water in residential areas. Yet the Zika virus continues to thrive amongst the Singaporean people, leavings scientist confounded as to why the disease has made such an impact. If the disease were not so serious, you might be inclined to suggest that this mystery is starting to bug the place.