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Monday, July 20, 2009

53% of flu cases in Singapore are H1N1 positive

53% of flu cases in Singapore are H1N1 positive

Channel NewsAsia
20 July 2009

SINGAPORE: More than half of flu cases here (53%) are H1N1 positive. The number jumped from just 13 per cent in a span of only four weeks.

The latest data by Singapore's Health Ministry shows that the country is well past the mitigation stage for the management of H1N1 flu cases.

Giving an update in Parliament on Monday, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the virus circulating in Singapore currently is largely benign, with almost all patients recovering fully.

He added Singapore remains in Yellow alert because unlike seasonal flu, the at-risk groups involve younger adults with underlying medical problems.

Moving forward, Mr Khaw said H1N1 prevalence in the country should peak within a week or two.

He said more Singaporeans will get infected, reaching a peak before the numbers start to decline as in New York where the wave peaked in May and June.

Experts refer to this phenomenon as the community acquiring "herd immunity".

Mr Khaw said temperature taking in schools should step down from next month.

Army camps will also step down their H1N1 control measures according to their specific operational needs.

Hospitals, though, will remain on high vigilance. Visitation will continue to be discouraged and infection control measures will remain.

Mr Khaw also outlined three key priorities.

MOH will focus on high-risk patients and encouraging them to come forward promptly and not wait until their symptoms become too severe.

The ministry will also review its control measures and prepare Singapore for the next wave of H1N1 which may come when winter returns to the Northern hemisphere.

As for the managing of patients, Mr Khaw said doctors will treat them clinically rather than send every suspected H1N1 case for lab tests.

Most patients are being treated by GPs as outpatients and hospitalisation is the exception, only for high-risk cases.

Likewise, travel advisory, temperature screening at airports, contact tracing and home quarantine measures have been largely stepped down.

The 993 ambulance service for H1N1 suspected cases will also be wound up from Tuesday. Callers will hear an automated message telling them to visit their nearest GP or Pandemic Preparedness Clinic if the symptoms are mild or to call 995 if they have severe symptoms.

While the government has put in place orders for a H1N1 vaccine once it is available, Mr Khaw pointed out that the most basic strategy is maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene.

- CNA/ir

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