Health scare of the year: Zika arrives on Singapore shores

Our tiny island was fraught with health scares in 2016, which saw some of our leaders taking ill, as well as several infectious outbreaks that sparked fear across the nation.

News that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat suffered a stroke during a Cabinet meeting in May shocked Singaporeans. The 55-year-old resumed light office duties in August, and is staying away from the crowds until he regains his immunity.

In August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave the audience and viewers at home a scare after faltering during his National Rally speech. Mr Lee, 64, had become unsteady due to prolonged standing, heat, and dehydration. He drew a standing ovation when he returned on stage to resume his speech.

Singaporeans' civic-mindedness was also put to the test when the nation saw one of its worst hand, foot and mouth disease outbreaks this year, with nearly 40,000 cases reported as of December.

The health scare of the year, however, goes to the local Zika outbreak in late August that sent Singaporeans sweeping mosquito repellents off the shelves. Pregnant women were especially worried as the virus can cause microcephaly in babies.

What made the outbreak worse was that four out of five Zika patients were asymptomatic and could have spread the infection unknowingly.

minlee@sph.com.sg

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