Parliament: Ebola outbreak risk here is low, says Health Ministry

Parliament: Ebola outbreak risk here is low, says Health Ministry
PHOTO: Parliament: Ebola outbreak risk here is low, says Health Ministry

SINGAPORE - The risk of an ebola outbreak in Singapore is low because of the "limited travel connectivity" between Singapore and Africa, said Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min in Parliament on Monday.

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Woman sparks brief Ebola scare for Singapore by Salma Khalik, Linette Lai, published in The Straits Times, Aug 15

SINGAPORE - Singapore remains on alert for Ebola after a brief scare yesterday, which saw a woman who had flown here from Nigeria put into isolation.

The false alarm was triggered when the woman, in her 50s, went to Gleneagles Hospital for a minor procedure. A physical check found that she had a fever and she was isolated immediately.

Staff dealing with her donned full protective equipment to guard against infection.

As the woman had flown in from Nigeria - one of four African countries which has seen an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease - just a few days earlier, the hospital contacted the Ministry of Health (MOH), which advised it to send the woman to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

After less than 90 minutes at Gleneagles, she was transferred by ambulance to TTSH where she was later discharged after it was confirmed that she did not have the potentially fatal disease.

TTSH chief executive Philip Choo told The Straits Times that "unfortunately for now, there will be many more (cases) like this as the triage trigger is rather blunt".

He was referring to the lack of specific symptoms for the viral infection, which has a mortality rate of close to 90 per cent.

Victims generally have fever, headache, joint and muscle ache, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The World Health Organisation said close to 2,000 have been diagnosed with the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

An MOH spokesman yesterday confirmed that there were no Ebola cases in Singapore.

He said: "The case in question was indeed referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but she does not fit the case definition.

"MOH will continue to closely monitor the situation, and continually assess and calibrate its measures."

Coincidentally, the ministry ran an exercise yesterday to demonstrate Singapore's first line of defence against highly infectious diseases such as Ebola.

The simulation, which involved a mock Ebola patient, was carried out at Changi Airport's Terminal 2.

The walk-in "patient" was first attended to by a doctor and nurse, in protective gear, stationed in the terminal's transit area.

The doctor conducted a four-way conference call with MOH, TTSH, and private health-care provider Parkway Shenton which offers portable medical isolation units.

The transparent unit - which encloses patients from top to toe - is manned by four people in protective gear and is used to transfer highly infectious patients to a hospital for further management.

It is not known if the unit was used for the Nigerian woman yesterday.

The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with blood or other fluids from an infected person.

It can also be passed from contaminated surfaces or items, through broken skin or mucous membrane.

This article was first published on August 15, 2014. 
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