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#NEWS #Zika: Australia issues Singapore travel warning for pregnant women as virus spreads

Singapore: The Australian government has warned pregnant women to defer non-essential travel to Singapore as the number
of confirmed cases of Zika virus in the city state rose to 82 on Tuesday, with some of the latest infections detected beyond the area of the initial outbreak.

Neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia have stepped up protective measures, introducing thermal scanners at airports and border checkpoints with the island state.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus was detected in Brazil last year and has since spread across the Americas. It poses a risk to pregnant women as it can cause severe birth defects. It has been linked in Brazil to more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

At least five of 26 new cases confirmed late on Tuesday were detected outside the initial cluster in the Aljunied area in the southeast of Singapore, the health ministry and National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint statement.
Australia, Taiwan and South Korea issued travel warnings for tourists, and Singapore advised pregnant women to take a free Zika test if they showed any symptoms or if their partners tested positive.

“This is regardless of whether they have been to Zika-affected areas,” the statement said.

The new advice on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller website advises: “All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

“Adopt additional measures advised by the Department of Health, including deferring non-essential travel if pregnant, avoiding pregnancy for two months following your return and other advice for both males and females.”
The outbreak come as the tourism industry in one of the world’s busiest travel hubs already faces weak global economic growth. Singapore’s Tourism Board said it was premature to consider any impact on the sector, adding it remained a “safe travel destination”.

More than 55 million people pass through Singapore’s Changi airport every year. In the first half of this year, tourism arrivals topped 8 million, around 1 million more than a year earlier.