Low risk of outbreak in S'pore, says Lam Pin Min

Low risk of outbreak in S'pore, says Lam Pin Min
PHOTO: Low risk of outbreak in S'pore, says Lam Pin Min

SINGAPORE - Singapore faces a low risk of an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus because few people from the affected countries arrive here each month, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday.

This is despite the worsening situation of the disease in West Africa.

Before the outbreak, between 200 and 300 people arrived in Singapore from Nigeria each month, he said.

Another 30 travellers in total came from the worst-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone each month.

Since the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Aug 8, many airlines stopped flying to the countries. So, there are fewer travellers from there to Singapore.

The current epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in West Africa.

Replying to questions on the Health Ministry's plans in the event of an outbreak, he said suspected cases will be centrally managed at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Confirmed cases will receive intensive supportive treatment, and staff handling them will use protective equipment.

But should a person be initially admitted to another hospital, he will remain there to minimise the risk of infection during his transfer.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said there are now 12 Singaporeans in Nigeria and one in Liberia.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry is in regular contact with them and urged them to consider returning, especially if they do not have essential matters to attend to there, he told Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked Dr Lam if the Health Ministry has stockpiles of the experimental drug ZMapp, which has been used to treat Ebola cases overseas with varying success.

"We have been informed by the manufacturer that there is a shortage of ZMapp at this point in time," Dr Lam said. "We want to let Singaporeans know that while we monitor the situation very closely, ZMapp is not the mainstay of treatment for any patient infected with Ebola."

As for media reports in August of a suspected Ebola case here, he said the ministry was concerned about it and wrote "to the media to clarify with them and to ensure that in future reporting, they do check with the ministry to prevent such false alarms".


This article was first published on Sep 9, 2014.
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