In light of the Zika virus outbreak in South America, some pregnant women are asking doctors for letters to help them change their travel plans.
On Feb 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared “the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, (as a) Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
Experts have agreed that a causal relationship between the Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven.
On Jan 27, Singapore's Health Ministry advised pregnant women to reconsider their travel plans to countries with ongoing outbreaks. Channel NewsAsia spoke with an obstetrician who had written two letters for patients who had booked flights to South America.
"They are going for work or for pleasure, whichever it is, they are now definitely avoiding them,” said Dr Ann Tan, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Women Fertility and Fetal Centre. “And there is a lot of great fear too, not just in early pregnancy. Even women who are even thinking of conceiving in the near future should probably take note of the advisory as well."
Channel NewsAsia also checked with some airlines, who said that they are constantly reviewing the situation.
For the month of February, pregnant women who have booked flights with British Airways to certain parts of South America - Brazil, Mexico, Barbados and Dominican Republic - can change their booking for free, by either delaying their travel dates or changing their destination.
Singapore Airlines says its sales offices handle the change in bookings by pregnant women travelling to South America on a case-by-case basis.