World Bulletin / News Desk
Tin Pei Ling, a member of parliament in MacPherson constituency where the first locally-transmitted case was detected, has even launched efforts to keep pregnant women in the area "updated and assured" of the situation, local newspaper The Straits Times reported Monday.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) announced Saturday that the case involved a 47-year-old Malaysian woman who had developed a fever, rash and conjunctivitis on Aug. 25.
A day later, authorities confirmed that they had identified 41 cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus infection.
All identified cases appear to have occurred within a specific area in eastern Singapore.
The environment agency said that it had deployed more than 200 officers to the neighborhood to carry out inspections, conduct treatment such as the thermal fogging of outdoor areas and offering public education.
According to the agency, 19 breeding habitats were found and destroyed during their inspection of 1,800 out of an estimated 6,000 premises in the area. They continue to urge residents to cooperate with their inspections.
Speaking to the press, officials from the Ministry of Health said that the earliest case of locally-transmitted Zika virus infection identified was July 31, 2016.
Following the confirmation of the first case announced Saturday, authorities had looked back on previous cases with similar symptoms, and carried out tests to determine if they were Zika.
"Part of the reason that we have discovered more cases is because we have now gone back to the cases that were seen before by doctors. They were not suspected to have Zika, because they have no travel history and so on," Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told local news website TODAYonline.
“Now that we know there is a case… we’ve therefore gone back to all these cases that were surfaced before, and checked their blood tests, and that’s why we have discovered more cases, as a result of the first case.”
The discovery of so many cases of locally-transmitted Zika infection has sparked unhappiness and anxiety among Singaporeans, with many criticizing the government for not having detected the infections earlier.
Chee Hong Tat, the minister of state for health, refuted accusations of a cover-up late Sunday.
"MOH and NEA have been proactive in engaging the different stakeholders to identify possible cases, conducting screening and testing to identify the confirmed cases, and promptly announcing such cases to the public once they have been confirmed," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Zika is primarily transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, and many countries in South America have been experiencing outbreaks of the virus -- with Brazil being particularly hard hit since reporting its first case in May 2015.
Doctors believe as much as 80 percent of those infected with Zika never develop symptoms, while those who have symptoms suffer from fevers, joint pain and rashes. The virus has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly.