Low risk of H7N9 bird flu outbreak in Singapore-Health ministry

Low risk of H7N9 bird flu outbreak in Singapore: Health ministry

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that the risk of an outbreak of the H7N9 strain of bird flu will continue to be low as long as the virus’ characteristics do not change.

It added that there is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, MOH said its current assessment of the strain is that it poses a low public health risk to Singapore.

It also advised the public not to be alarmed by reports of H7N9 cases overseas.

Since the start of winter in the northern hemisphere, there had been more human cases of H7N9 reported from China.

The ministry said there may be more human cases reported overseas in the coming months as there may be increased circulation of the influenza virus in the colder months, as well as increased poultry production and mass movements of people in anticipation of the festive seasons.

MOH also said in its release that it is in close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its counterparts internationally, and will continue to monitor the situation.

It added that Singapore’s hospitals remain vigilant to test for H7N9 and other avian influenza where clinically indicated, such as in patients with serious respiratory illness and a compatible travel history.

All suspected and confirmed cases will be isolated.

In addition, if a case is detected, MOH will conduct contact tracing and all close contacts will be placed under surveillance.

To reduce the risk of exposure to H7N9, MOH advises Singaporeans travelling to affected areas to maintain vigilance and adopt the following general health precautions when overseas:

•    Observe good personal hygiene at all times;

•    Practise frequent hand washing (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing);

•    Avoid close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections (e.g. someone who is coughing);

•    Avoid contact with poultry, birds and other wild animals, and visiting live poultry markets. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;

•    Adopt good food safety and hygiene practices and avoid consuming under-cooked meats and eggs; and

•    Wear a mask and seek medical attention promptly if you become unwell with fever and cough while travelling in or within 2 weeks of being in any of the areas, and inform the doctor of the areas that you have travelled to.

Current research shows that H7N9 infection is transmitted to humans by direct exposure to infected live or dead poultry or birds, or indirectly through exposure to environments contaminated by infected poultry or birds, such as in a farmyard or market setting.

MOH said Singapore does not import live or raw poultry from China, where most cases of H7N9 bird flu have been detected.

Only processed poultry products which have been heat-treated to eliminate bird flu virus are allowed to be imported from accredited establishments in China.


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