Local hospitals have been reminded to remain vigilant and to stand ready to screen and isolate individuals suspected to suffer from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Wednesday (Jun 3).
South Korea has confirmed five more cases of MERS, the Korean health ministry said early on Wednesday, bringing to 30 the total number of cases in the country of the often-deadly illness. All cases of infection in South Korea have been limited to household and hospital contacts among the patients, and all have been linked to the first identified case. Given this, the Health Ministry said there is no evidence of sustained community transmission in South Korea.
MOH revealed in a press release that three categories of patients with clinical signs or symptoms of pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness, who travelled to the Middle East in the two weeks before onset, will be referred to any of its public and private hospitals for further evaluation to exclude the infection.
Patients from South Korea, and also those with fever and respiratory illness of any severity who had visited a healthcare facility while in the Middle East or South Korea will also be similarly referred, according to MOH.
Clinics said they will step up their precautionary measures on the Health Ministry’s advice.
“So when the situation gets worse, the Ministry of Health will tell us that we need to be vigilant and more alert about it,” said Dr Philip Koh, family physician at Healthway Tampines Clinic. “Then we will have to don our personal protective equipment, which is our masks, our gloves, and our goggles and basically the clinic will be turned into a pandemic centre of preparedness.”
“What happens is when a patient comes in, who is suspected of having fever, cough and breathlessness, will be attended to by a nurse donned with this personal protective equipment at the entrance,” added Dr Koh.
The Ministry said that temperature screening at air checkpoints for passengers arriving from the Middle East have been in place since May 18 last year. It said that health advisories continue to be in place at the local border checkpoints for travelers coming from and going to areas affected by MERS, and that screening may be ramped up to include passengers arriving from South Korea should evidence of sustained community spread turn up.
SIA HAS PLANS TO MINIMISE DISEASE SPREAD
Also on Wednesday, a Singapore Airlines (SIA) spokesperson assured that the national carrier has measures – “both on the ground and on board” – in place to “minimise the spread of diseases”. These include passenger screening by airport ground personnel.
“If any passenger appears to be unwell, he or she will be asked to see a doctor immediately. We will not carry any passenger whom we believe is a risk to others on board,” the spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.
SIA added that it has developed standard operating procedures to handle various medical emergencies, including infectious diseases.
The airline said these measures “will be coupled with the health regulations implemented by local authorities”, citing cabin crew basic first-aid training as one of such measures.