Measures in place to combat infectious disease outbreaks in Singapore

SINGAPORE - We agree with Dr Daniel Ng Peng-Keat ("New ways needed to fight infectious diseases"; July 8) on the need to ensure that Singapore's infrastructure and capability to handle infectious disease outbreaks remain robust.

Learning from our experiences with the severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009, we are continually strengthening our defences against emerging infectious diseases such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and avian influenza A (H7N9).

As a first line of defence, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has a surveillance system in place to detect potential infectious disease threats early.

Through systematic horizon scanning, and by maintaining close links with the World Health Organisation and our health-care counterparts in other countries, the MOH is able to detect and track outbreaks across the globe so that we can respond in a timely manner to potential infectious disease outbreaks.

We regularly keep all health-care institutions and medical practitioners informed of these threats to ensure that our health-care system remains vigilant.

All our hospitals are equipped to diagnose and manage suspected or confirmed infectious disease cases, with facilities such as isolation rooms, including negative pressure isolation rooms.

To further enhance our capacity to manage major infectious disease outbreaks, we will be building a new National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) by 2018 to replace the current Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

The NCID will have the latest facilities required for the clinical management and isolation of infectious disease cases in the event of a major epidemic.

TTSH's Institute of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology will also enhance the NCID's capabilities in public health research and strengthen infectious disease training for health-care professionals.

With these measures in place, the MOH and CDC will continue to work closely with our partners to enhance Singapore's overall preparedness and readiness to respond to public health threats caused by emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases.

Bey Mui Leng (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
Leo Yee Sin (Associate Professor)
Clinical Director, Communicable Disease Centre, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Director, Institute of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology, Tan Tock Seng Hospital

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