RONALD LEE: How did 1 known case become 41 known cases over the span of 1 day? And, how could 34 be making a full recovery from it so soon? Such questions have led factions of the public to cry “cover-up” by the Ministry of Health. Their accusation is bolstered by the manner in which the MOH and Singapore General Hospital hid the outbreak of Hepatitis C at the hospital, before eventually coming clean with the public months later. By then, the number of infected persons had already multiplied.
So is it a cover-up this time, when it comes to the Zika virus infections? Note that the announcement on Saturday read first LOCALLY-TRANSMITTED case. I’ll come to that in a bit. But first, this is how things unfolded, according to the health authorities:
A woman was referred to the Communicable Disease Centre by her GP, on suspicion that she had contracted the Zika virus.
The woman was confirmed to have the Zika virus and was warded. She was assessed to have been infected in Singapore. On the same day, tests were done on 123 people who showed recent or current symptoms of the Zika virus. That number included 118 workers of a construction site near the infected woman’s home in Aljunied Crescent.
MOH and NEA announced that 36 foreign workers were tested positive for the virus. Besides them, 4 other Singaporean men were also tested positive. They either worked or lived near Sims Drive, which is near to the infected Malaysian woman’s home in Aljunied Crescent. By the time they were tested for the Zika virus, 34 out of the 41 infected persons were making a full recovery, while the remaining 7 are in hospital.
The Zikia virus is spread mainly by infected mosquitoes, and by sexual intercourse. People infected with the Zika virus typically show symptoms which are closely similar to flu. The virus is non-lethal.
The danger of the virus comes when pregnant women are infected as their babies are at a high risk of developing birth defects.
Those who believe the statement from the MOH will praise it for its quick response this time to track and contain those with possible Zika virus infections in the span of 2 days.
The question is, what are health authorities not telling us?
Patient A, as the infected Aljunied resident is referred to, was announced public as the first LOCALLY-TRANSMITTED case of the Zika virus, not the FIRST CASE of it. An infectious disease expert has already flagged the MOH for not doing more to investigate the spread of Zika since the first case of infection was detected in Singapore in May this year. There’s been no further word on that.
This is what Dr Derrick Heng, MOH Group Director for Public Health Group had to say about the recently-released timeline of incidents:
“The first case we knew of was patient A (the 47-year-old Malaysian woman whose case was reported on Saturday). The rest of it we had to work with the GPs, to do a lot of tracking to try and look back. We went back to look at people who were part of the GP (cases), and (at the) construction site, the people who had reported symptoms in the past. We took samples…the samples (tested) positive sometime late last night (on Saturday).”
As for Mr Gan Kim Yong? The Health Minister denied claims of a cover-up:
“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. 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. So out of the 41 cases, I think some 36 cases were a result of this active testing of the patients who were in the areas of concern, whom we felt there was the potential they would be infected by Zika. Then we went back to relook at their test results. Some were even retested to determine whether they were infected by Zika.”
So, cover-up or not? Judging from the official timeline provided by health authorities, it doesn’t appear to be the case. Some sluggishness? Maybe.
But the niggling feeling is – is there something else they’re not telling us? We shouldn’t jump to conclusions, just as we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be misled.